Facts about Water:
Statistics of the Water Crisis

Why Water? ...By the numbers (Last Update: 8/31/2016)
Statistics on water and its effects.


  • 783 million people do not have access to clean and safe water worldwide.  2
  • 319 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are without access to improved reliable drinking water sources  16
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is among the regions with the greatest drinking water spending needs, with the greatest investment needs in rural areas.  17
  • Two thirds or about 102 million of the 159 million people still using surface water live in Sub-Saharan Africa  14
  • 1 in 9 people world wide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water.  13
  • 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.  4
  • In developing countries, as much as 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.  5
  • 1 in 3 people, or 2.4 billion, are without improved sanitation facilities.  14
  • 695 million of a global 2.4 billion people living without improved sanitation facilities live in Sub-Saharan Africa.  16
  • Exposure to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene is a leading cause of cholera and a variety of infectious and tropical diseases in the African Region.  15
  • Half of the world's hospital beds are filled with people suffering from a water-related disease.  8
  • Of Sub-Saharan healthcare facilities, 42% lack an improved water source within 500m, 16% lack improved sanitation, and 36% lack soap for hand washing.  14
  • Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely as boys to be the family member responsible for fetching water.  2
  • The physical and time burden of water hauling was found to fall primarily on women and girls who make up 72% of those tasked with fetching water.  14
  • Women and girls are responsible for water collection in seven out of ten households in 45 developing countries.  14
  • Over half of the developing world's primary schools don't have access to water and sanitation facilities. Without toilets, girls often drop out at puberty.  3
  • Less than one in three people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a proper toilet.  2
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, in the 38 countries for which data is available, hand washing prevalence is at best 50%.  16
  • 84% of the people who don't have access to improved water, live in rural areas, where they live principally through subsistence agriculture.  2
  • The average container for water collection in Africa, the jerry can, weighs over 40 lbs when full.   9
  • Almost two-thirds, 64% of households rely on women to get the family's water when there is no water source in the home.  2
  • Globally we use 70% of our water sources for agriculture and irrigation, and only 10% on domestic uses.  1
  • Nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease.  6
  • According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of between $3 and $34!  12
  • By investing in clean water alone, young children around the world can gain more than 413 million days of health!  7
  • The United Nations estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water; the same as an entire year's labor in all of France!  10
  • Research has shown that for every 10% increase in women's literacy, a country's whole economy can grow by up to 0.3%.  11
  • Citations

    1. AQUASTAT. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "Water Use." http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/water_use/index.stm
    2. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. "Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2010." Available at www.wssinfo.org/
    3. UNICEF. "Water, Sanitation and Hygiene" Updated May 2010. http://www.unicef.org/media/media_45481.html
    4. United Nations Development Programme. "Human Development Report 2006: Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis." 2006. Available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2006/
    5. United Nations. Statement by Secretary General Koffi Annan. June 2003. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2003/sgsm8707.doc.htm
    6. WHO/UNICEF. "Diarrhoea: Why children are still dying and what can be done." 2009. available at http://www.unicef.org/health/index_51412.html.
    7. World Health Organization. "Costs and benefits of water and sanitation improvements at the global level." http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/wsh0404/en/
    8. UNEP / UN-Habitat "Sick water? The central role of wastewater management in sustainable development. Available at http://www.grida.no/publications/rr/sickwater/
    9. Jerry cans carry approx. 5 gallons of water so if a single gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds, 5 gallons are 41.5 pounds.
    10. United Nations Development Programme. "Resource Guide on Gender and Climate Change." 2009. Available at http://www.undp.org/climatechange/library_gender.shtml
    11. UNICEF. "Water, Sanitation and Hygiene" Updated May 2010. http://www.unicef.org/media/media_45481.html
    12. World Health Organization. Executive Summary of "Costs and benefits of water and sanitation improvements at the global level." www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/wsh0404summary/en/
    13. Based on 87% of the global population using imprtoved sources. Found in WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. "Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2010." Available at www.wssinfo.org/
    14. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation "2015 Report and MDG Assessment" Available from: http://www.wssinfo.org/
    15. World Health Organization "WHO in the African Region" Available from: http://www.afro.who.int/en/clusters-a-programmes/hpr/protection-of-the-human-environment/programme-components/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=24&Itemid=122
    16. World Health Organization "Key Facts from 2015 JMP Report" Available from: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/JMP-2015-keyfacts-en-rev.pdf?ua=1
    17. World Health Organization "Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach MDG target and universal coverage" Available from: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/2012/globalcosts.pdf

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