Clean water and hygienic conditions : two essential elements for human health and prosperity
“Water is the driving force of all nature” - Leonardo da Vinci
SDG 6 was set in the context of the U.N. 2030 Agenda’s establishment, with an ambitious goal: by 2030, "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all." The World Health Organization (WHO) provided useful data about water use and sanitation access worldwide, that can help us have a full picture of the situation.
Across the world there are very different levels of water withdrawals, based on various factors, such as latitude, climate and the importance of a country's agricultural or industrial activity.
Regarding the agricultural sector, India is the most relevant water user with nearly 700 billion m3 per year. India’s water consumption is steadily increasing, because its population and feeding requirements are growing rapidly. India is followed by China, which is the second largest water consumer, with approximately 385 billion m3.
For what concerns water consumption in the industrial sector, there is a variety of applications : dilution, steam generation, washing and cooling of manufacturing equipment. The United States is the largest consumer of industrial water, with over 300 billion m³ per year, followed by China with 140 billion m³. What emerged here is the fact that, differently from the global distribution of water used in agriculture, industrial water applications are most common in high-income countries (17 percent on average).
However, as we know, water is largely consumed even in domestic environments and public services. China, with the largest population in the world, has the highest demand: over 70 billion m³ per year. Despite having a lower population, The United States covers the second position, because of a higher per capita water demand.
Universal access to improved sanitation facilities is still one of the greatest development challenges that modern age is facing. From 1990 to 2015, the number of people without access to sanitation facilities has remained almost the same. In addition, there is still inequality between countries worldwide. In Europe, North America, North Africa and Latin America sanitation access is greater than 90 percent, while across Central and East Asia it is between 70 and 80 percent. India stays behind, with under 40 percent access rates. We find the most dramatic situation in South Sudan, where only 6-7 percent of the population had improved sanitation access in 2015.
So, what could people worldwide do to improve the global situation concerning water use and access to sanitation? According to the U.N., in order to reach Goal 6 and create action toward it, countries around the world should put into practice several targets that can be found here.
Clean water access and safe sanitation facilities are basic human needs and they are essential for human health, wellbeing and prosperity. They are also vital to prevent diseases, malnutrition and mortality. For these reasons, no one has to remain behind. High-income States should cooperate and give support to developing countries, in order to allow them benefit from socio-economic development and to achieve the full realization of these two fundamental human rights.
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