Every minute a child dies of a water-related disease
Women and children spend 140 million hours a day collecting water
1 in 9 people lack access to safe water
More people have a mobile phone than a toilet
For every $1 spent on water and sanitation there is a $4 economic return

Billions affected daily by water and sanitation crisis

Without water, life would not exist. It is a prerequisite for all human and economic development.

Yet today, 750 million people - about 1 in 9 - lack access to safe water. More than twice that many, 2.5 billion people - about 1 in 3 - don’t have access to improved sanitation.

There has been significant public attention paid to the issue of water scarcity, and for good reason. Although water is a renewable resource, it is also a finite one. Only 2.53 percent of earth’s water is fresh, and some two-thirds of that is locked up in glaciers and permanent snow cover. But despite the very real danger of future global water shortages, for the vast majority of the nearly one billion people without safe drinking water, today’s water crisis is not an issue of scarcity, but of access.

A Common Struggle

In most developed nations, we take access to safe water for granted. But this wasn’t always the case. A little more than 100 years ago, New York, London and Paris were centers of infectious disease. Child death rates were as high then as they are now in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was sweeping reforms in water and sanitation that enabled human progress to leap forward. It should come as no surprise that in 2007, a poll by the British Medical Journal found that clean water and sanitation comprised the most important medical advancement since 1840.

The health and economic impacts of today’s global water crisis are staggering.

  • More than 840,000 people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes.1
  • 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation; 1 billion still practice open defecation.2
  • Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every ten hours.3
  • An estimated $260 billion is lost globally each year due to lack of adequate water supply and sanitation.14
  • Women and children spend 140 million hours each day collecting water.2,4,5

The Good News

We know how to bring people clean water and improved sanitation. We’re not waiting for a magic cure. And the solutions are simple and cost-effective. On average, every one US dollar invested in water and sanitation provides an economic return of four US dollars. For only $25, Water.org can bring someone access to safe water.

Resource Links

Look for more facts in our collection of Water Resource Links.


  1. Tropical Medicine and International Health. 19, no. 8 (2014): 894 - 905. Burden of disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene in low- and middle-income settings: a retrospective analysis of data from 145 countries.
  2. World Health Organization and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP). (2014).Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, 2014 Update.
  3. World Health Organization (WHO). (2012). Global Health Observatory. Global Health Observatory Data Repository. Mortality and global health estimates: Child Mortality: Causes of Child Death: Number of Deaths by Cause: By Region: WORLD: Diarrhoeal diseases, World Health Organization (WHO).
  4. World Health Organization. (2012). Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage.
  5. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2010). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2010 Update.

Water.org provides innovative, market-based solutions that change lives every day through safe water and sanitation.

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