Lack of Access

An estimated 663 million people lack access to safe water. 2.3 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation, and 946 million people still practice open defecation. Learn more at Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment.

Far-reaching Effects 

The effects of the water and sanitation crisis are far-reaching, with implications for education, economic development, health, food security, and women’s empowerment. Learn more about these critical intersections from charity: water. Be sure to watch their video on how water changes everything.

Economic Benefits of Investment 

According to the World Health Organization, every $1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation yields a $4.30 return in the form of reduced health care costs for individual and society around the world. For more WASH statistics, see

Water Quality and Public Health Threats 

Water quality can be affected by naturally occurring materials like fluoride and arsenic as well as by microbial contamination from human and animal feces. The World Health Organization has established guidelines for drinking-water quality.

Diseases caused by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation remain humanity’s most serious public health threat, causing 80% of the sicknesses in developing countries and annually killing between two and five million people, mainly young children. Every minute a newborn baby dies from infection caused by a lack of safe water and an unclean environment.

U.S. Foundation Support Growing, but Still a Small Percent of International Giving 

In 2009 and 2010, U.S. foundations gave $144.2 million (consisting of 348 grants) in support of global WASH projects, totaling 1.7 percent of international giving by U.S. foundations.

Sustainable Development Goal 6

The MDGs challenged the global community to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. While the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) reports that the safe drinking water goal was met and surpassed in 2010, progress on sanitation fell short. The SDGs seek to build on the MDGs and complete what they did not achieve by 2030. Goal 6 of the SDGs aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Water and sanitation underpin all sustainable development and are critical to our survival. Learn more about the connection of water to the SDG goals here.