Water Statistics ~ Numbers speak louder than words. In short, daunting!



  • 884 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world’s population. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • 2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is almost two fifths of the world’s population. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • 1.4 million children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation – 4,000 child deaths a day or one child every 20 seconds. This equates to 160 infant school classrooms lost every single day to an entirely preventable public health crisis. (WHO/WaterAid)
  • Just £15 can enable one person to access safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation. (WaterAid)
  • For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, $8 is returned. (UNDP)
  • Hand-washing with soap at critical times can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by up to 47%. (UN Water)
  • The integrated approach of providing water, sanitation and hygiene reduces the number of deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases by an average of 65%. (WHO)
  • The weight of water that women in Africa and Asia carry on their heads is commonly 20kg, the same as the average UK airport luggage allowance. (HDR 2006)
  • In the UK the expansion of water and sanitation infrastructure in the 1880s contributed to a 15 year increase in life expectancy in the following four decades. (HDR, 2006)
This gravity flow scheme reaches 1256 people and 750 livestock

This gravity flow scheme reaches 1256 people in Tigray, Ethiopia. Photo: WaterAid/Caroline Irby


Every year, the average person produces 35 kilos of faeces and 500 litres of urine. (UN Water)

  • One gram of human faeces can contain 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1000 parasite cysts, 100 parasite eggs. (UNICEF)
  • No sub-Saharan African country is on-track to meet the sanitation MDG. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • Every year, around 60 million children in the developing world are born into households without access to sanitation. (UN Water)
  • Children living in households with no toilet are twice as likely to get diarrhea as those with a toilet. (WEDC)
  • In the developing world as a whole, around 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers, polluting them and affecting plant and aquatic life. (UN)


  • At any one time half the hospital beds in developing countries are filled with people suffering from diarrhoea. (UNDP)
  • Children in poor environments often carry 1,000 parasitic worms in their bodies at a time. (UNICEF)
  • Intestinal worms infect about 10% of the population of the developing world. Intestinal parasitic infections can lead to malnutrition, anaemia and stunted growth. (WHO)

Water transportation is a daily struggle. Women & girls walk for miles and carry up to 40 lbs of water.


  • Lack of safe water and sanitation costs sub-Saharan Africa around 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year. (UNDP)
  • 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.
  • 11% more girls attend school when sanitation is available. (UK DFID)
  • 40 billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa. (Cosgrove and Rijsberman, 1998)
  • Households in rural Africa spend an average of 26% of their time fetching water, and it is generally women who are burdened with the task. (UK DFID)


  • 1.2 billion people gained access to sanitation between 1990 and 2004. (UN Water)
  • 1.7 billion people will still need sanitation even if the 2015 MDG sanitation goal to halve the proportion of people without sanitation is reached. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • Cost of meeting the sanitation MDG target every year until 2015: US$9.5 billion. If sustained the same investment could achieve basic sanitation for the entire world within 20 years. US$9.5 billion a year is 1% of annual world military spending and an estimated one-third of what the world spends on bottled water every year. (UN Water)
  • Cost of meeting the water and sanitation MDG targets every year until 2015 is US$11.3 billion. (UN Water)

Water, the source of life, and source of many of life's basic problems. A sad global reality.


  • Over the past 10 years, aid to health and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased by nearly 500%, while aid to water and sanitation has increased by only 79%. (OECD)
  • The UK Department for International Development is set to double funding for water to Africa to £95 million per year by 2008 with a further doubling to £200 million per year by 2011. (UK DFID)


  • The average European uses 200 litres of water every day. North Americans use 400 litres. (HDR, 2006)
  • The average person in the developing world uses 10 litres of water every day for their drinking, washing and cooking. (WSSCC)
  • An old lavatory uses at least nine litres of water a flush; a low-flush model uses as little as three litres. Each household in the UK uses about 50 litres a person a day for flushing; 35% of domestic water use. (Environment Agency)
  • On current trends over the next 20 years humans will use 40% more water than they do now. (UNEP)
  • Agriculture accounts for over 80% of the world’s water consumption. (UNEP)
  • The average amount of water needed to produce one kilogramme of potatoes is 1000 litres, wheat is 1450 litres and rice is 3450 litres. (Gleick, 2001)


  • 97.5% of the earth’s water is saltwater. If the world’s water fitted into a bucket, only one teaspoonful would be drinkable. (HDR, 2006)
  • While the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold. Within the next fifty years, the world population will increase by another 40 to 50%. (World Water Council)

Abbreviations used
DFID – UK Department for International Development
HDR – UN Human Development Report (2006)
OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
UNDP – United Nations Development Programme
UNEP – United National Environment Programme
UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund
WEDC – Water Engineering Department, University of Loughborough
WHO – World Health Organization
WSSCC – Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council

Source: Wateraid.org


About dianhasan

Brand Storyteller, Travel Writer, Speaker, Creative Writer & Thinker - avid observer of randomness in everyday life - Sustainable Business, Eco Matters, Sustainable Urban Issues, Architecture, Heritage Conservation, Innovation & Brand-Strategy, Cross-Cultural Communications, Travel, Tourism & Lifestyle.
This entry was posted in Water Matters, Water Scarcity, Water Transportation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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