Every minute a child dies of a water-related disease
Women and children spend 200 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

On average, every US dollar invested in water and sanitation provides an economic return of eight US dollars1

Investment in safe drinking water and sanitation contributes to economic growth. For each $1 invested, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates returns of $3 - $34, depending on the region and technology.6

Those who lack access to water are not a homogeneously poor group. Nearly 66% of people who lack safe drinking water live on less than $2 a day, while 33% on less than $1 a day.1

An evaluation of major sanitation programs in six countries by the World Bank revealed households tend to be the primary investors in household on-site sanitation facilities. If provided access to credit, poor households were found to be able to allocate a significant portion of their income to sanitation investments. Access to credit was found to play a significant role in triggering household sanitation investments.3

People living in informal settlements (i.e. slums) often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.1

Resource Links

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


  1. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2006). Human Development Report 2006, Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis.
  2. Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). (2000). Linking Sustainability with Demand, Gender and Poverty: A study in community-managed water supply projects in 15 countries.
  3. Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). (2010). Financing On-Site Sanitation for the Poor, A Six County Comparative Review and Analysis.
  4. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2010). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2010 Update.
  5. World Health Organization (WHO). (2002). The World Health Report 2002, Reducing Risks, Promoting Health Life.
  6. World Health Organization (WHO). (2004). Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of Water and Sanitation Improvements at the Global Level.
  7. World Health Organization (WHO). (2008). Safer Water, Better Health: Costs, benefits, and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote health; Updated Table 1: WSH deaths by region, 2004.

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