So much work has been done to improve the water sanitation around the world since the United Nations designated access to safe drinking water as part of their United Nations Millennium Development Goals. As part of their Goal 7: To Ensure Environmental Sustainability, target 7.C is to Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
Between 1990 and 2015, 2.6 billion people gained access to an improved drinking water source, bringing the global total to 6.6 billion people, or 91% of the world’s population in 2015 (1). An “improved drinking source” is defined as a source protected from outside contamination due to its construction or active intervention. Examples of this include public taps and standpipes, protected dug wells, and protected rainwater collections, and are further explained in the figure to the right (2). The state of the world’s access to drinking water services in 2015 is shown in the figure below.
Increasing access to safe water has been paired with improvements in basic sanitation globally, though this progress has not yet reached the levels of clean drinking water. In 2015, 68% of the global population used an improved sanitation facility, which hygienically separates human excreta from potential human contact through modes such as sewer and septic system connections, ventilated pit latrines, or pit latrines with coverings (3). Still, this percentage fell 9 points below the aim of the Millennium Development Goals, and it is estimated that 2.4 billion people do not have access to improved facilities, with nearly 950 million estimated to defecate in the open.The state of global basic sanitation services in 2015 is shown in the figure below.
These improvements have contributed to global efforts to end disease, particularly diarrheal disease, one of the leading causes of childhood mortality (4). In fact, the average infant mortality rate attributable to diarrheal disease dropped from 6.75 deaths per 1000 live births in 2000 to 2.50 deaths per 1000 live births in 2015.
Still, work in these areas remains to be done. Safe drinking sources and hygienic sanitation services are still lacking in parts of the world, or challenging to access easily in others (5). Many people may need to travel 30 minutes to collect clean drinking water, while there are homes, schools, and communities without safe water or soap to wash hands (5). So while the Millennium Development Goals’ targets for clean water and sanitation have performed well, it is clear that there is still work to be done so that every individual has access to safe, clean water. With initiatives like the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, Number Six of which focuses explicitly on clean water and sanitation, as well as organizations like Billion Bottle Project, fighting to help ease access to clean water, we hope this reality is not far away.
Figure 1: Source: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Progress_on_Drinking_Water_Sanitation_and_Hygiene_2017.pdf (pg. 50)
Figure 2:Source: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Progress_on_Drinking_Water_Sanitation_and_Hygiene_2017.pdf (pg. 10)
Figure 3: Source: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Progress_on_Drinking_Water_Sanitation_and_Hygiene_2017.pdf (pg 14)