United Nations World Water Assessment Programme

W Wa Water
Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
The number of people in developing regions living in extreme poverty fell from 1.8 billion in 1990 to 1.4 billion in 2005. The World Bank estimates 64 million more people will be living in extreme poverty by the end of 2010 as a result of the economic crisis. Approximately 60% of the total labour force in Africa works in agriculture, providing livelihoods for 90% of people in rural areas.
Crops, fishing and aquaculture, livestock, poultry, dairy … in rural communities, the availability of food often depends entirely on uncertain weather patterns – whether rains come and rivers flow. Ensuring a sustainable water supply for agriculture increases food production and helps alleviate the world’s hunger. Water is essential to industry, to economic development and to creating livelihoods for the poor. A reliable water supply also helps poor households augment their income through productive domestic activities such as cultivating vegetable gardens or raising poultry. Without water, agriculture, industry, energy production and all other economic activities come to a halt. Water is the principal medium through which climate change exhibits its environmental, economic and social impacts. Many regions, and particularly poorer communities, are already vulnerable to floods, droughts and similar water-related disasters which can destroy lives, assets and incomes. But the risks associated with climate uncertainty and change can be mitigated by storing and distributing water wisely when it is scarce and by planning ahead to protect communities from floods. Coping with water-related risks requires the collective involvement and broad planning of integrated water resources management (IWRM).

for the Millennium Development Goals
Why managing water resources wisely is key to achieving the MDGs

Having a sustainable, safe water supply and benefiting from its economic opportunities can help break the vicious circle of poverty.


Achieve universal primary education Promote gender equality & empower women

In sub-Saharan Africa, only 79% of children of primaryschool age were enrolled in 2008. In 2007, only 53 of 171 countries with available data had achieved gender parity in primary & secondary education. 2/3 of employed women have vulnerable jobs.

Providing safe water services and managing water resources wisely improves health and opens opportunities for education and capacity-building for all. In many poor communities, fetching water from distant sources and queuing for water are physically-demanding and time-consuming responsibilities borne primarily by women and girls. Women have less time to engage in other productive activities, while for girls school attendance is often considered a lesser priority: a gender bias that creates a huge imbalance in school enrolment ratios. The lack of adequate sanitation and separate toilet facilities in schools also reduces girls’ attendance. Consequent disparities in women’s education and involvement in decision-making can place them at a significant disadvantage in earning an income or having a say in the affairs of their community.

MDGs 2 and 3

A safe, secure water supply helps all children – boys and girls – to stay at school and can enable women to participate more actively in their community.


Socio-economic development, education and empowerment start with a healthy and safe community
• Water-related illnesses cause health costs that can claim much of the household income of the poor. • Household livelihoods depend on incomeproducing members; adults who are ill themselves or who are caring for sick children are less productive. • Water and sanitation facilities located closer to homes reduces the risk of sexual assault of women and girls when gathering water and searching for privacy. • Better health improves school attendance rates for girls and boys.

Improved water services frees up time for productive activities – especially for women and girls
• Women and girls are often the primary collectors of water and the primary carers for sick family members. • Time women lose for other productive activities contributes to household poverty. • Reducing these burdens enables more girls to attend primary and secondary school and increases more women to participate in adult education, community activities and organizations, and leisure activities.

Investments in water infrastructure and services are catalysts for development and the empowerment of women
• Reducing ecosystems degradation makes livelihood systems more secure. • Improving water services not only increases water provision, but can also provide jobs to local communities and build capacities. • Community-based organizations for water management can improve the social capital of women, by promoting their leadership and networking opportunities and building solidarity among them.

in which water and sanitation services and their management have a key role. Water is key to our survival. Better water quality and sanitation services. and that of other flora and fauna on our planet. Reliable.7% UN target ODA were Denmark. Human health depends on the quality of our immediate surroundings. 536. Integrated water resources management (IWRM) lets users balance water needs for economic and social activities and ensure environmental sustainability. In 2008. • Safe drinking water and basic sanitation help prevent water-related disease.5 million in 1990 to 8. MDGs 4.31% of their combined national income. including slums.000 fewer children died each day in 2008. water scarcity. Since 2000. The provision of safe water for medical purposes also improves their safety and that of their newborn during and after childbirth. MDG 7 Better management of water resources lessens pollution and improves water conservation towards ensuring sustainable. compared with 78% in 1990. the only countries to reach or exceed the 0. In 2008. and help minimize water treatment costs. the Netherlands.8 million in 2008. • Careful use of water resources can help prevent surface and groundwater contamination.g. improved sanitation reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 37. down from 8. . malaria and other diseases. 5&6 Safe water and improved sanitation are central to health and well-being. Luxembourg. salinity. 8 Responsible water resources management is vital for the environment and improves the health and well-being of everybody in the community • Better water management reduces mosquito habitats and lowers the incidence of water-borne diseases. This means that 10. Every year. life-supporting ecosystems.000 women and girls die during pregnancy. IWRM is also pivotal to reducing our vulnerability to climate change and variability. in some cases. In such conditions. malaria & other diseases Global under-five mortality fell from 12.3 million hectares per year in the 1990s.2 million hectares in 2000–2010.United Nations World Water Assessment Programme Reduce child mortality by two-thirds Improve maternal health Combat HIV/AIDS. From 1990 to 2008. Cooperation in water resources management. improving water resources management and water supply and sanitation services can facilitate partnerships for global development. putting less pressure on scarce freshwater resources. 7 Develop a global partnership for development Official development assistance (ODA) from developed countries in 2009 equalled 0. an estimated 22. 87% of the world used improved sources of drinking water in 2008.) • Reliable drinking-water supplies and improved water management in human settlement areas reduce transmission risks of malaria and dengue fever and can reduce biological pathogens and chemical hazards to which slum dwellers especially are exposed. Children are at risk without safe water to drink. • Biodiversity conservation to combat desertification is furthered by sound water management. the share of the urban population living in slums has declined from 39% to 33% in the developing world. most notably diarrhoea. Development agendas and partnerships must recognize the fundamental roles of sustainable water-resources management and the provision of safe drinking-water and basic sanitation in economic and social development and in ensuring the future of lifesupporting ecosystem services. particularly for its sustainable use. Access to safe water can help to keep HIVinfected people healthy and productive. reverse positive trends. Norway and Sweden.5 %. can improve expectant mothers’ health and contribute to safer pregnancies.5 billion. but the world’s population increased by over 1. (Improved water supply reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 21 %. Good water management and infrastructure is vital to bring adequate and sustainable supplies of safe water and sanitation services to poorly serviced communities in rural and urban areas.3 billion people gained access to improved sanitation. But housing and energy crises may slow progress and. 5 and 6 Ensure environmental sustainability Yearly loss of forest was 5. • IWRM can facilitate reconciliation of upstream/downstream water-use conflicts. without adequate water to stay clean.4 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were living with HIV. and measures that help women to reduce their physical burdens. Adequate treatment and disposal of wastewater contributes to better ecosystem conservation. MDG 8 Water knows no political boundaries and is especially vulnerable to human impacts. Where water problems serve as a constraint to development (e. safe water and sanitation services not only lower the incidence of many diseases but also increase children’s and adults’ capacities to combat HIV/AIDS. 4. parents are often powerless to give proper care to their children and are themselves vulnerable to diseases. We must work together to use this irreplaceable resource wisely. and without access to safe sanitation facilities. disasters). Almost all of these deaths occur in developing countries. childbirth or in the six weeks following delivery. is critical. 1.