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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Series: Clean Water and Sanitation

28 Feb 2017 2:31 PM | Anonymous

By Daniel Zuchegno

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Series: Clean Water and Sanitation


The World Denver event on February 22 concentrated on goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Series.

Panel:             Eleanor Allen, CEO of Water For People

                        Paula MacIlwaine, Deputy CEO of American Water Works Association

                        Katy Sill, Water and Sanitation Advisor in the USAID Water Office

                        Dr. Marshall Davert,  president of MWH

The panel was moderated by Allegra da Silva advanced Water Reuse Engineer at MWH Global.

Each of the panelists described  their efforts in the broader spectrum of  global water and sanitation challenges touching on two major themes of water and sanitation issues. Each of  the panelists presentations  helped to illuminate these issues surrounding development goal number 6.

The issues:

One,  global facts associated with a lack of drinking water and proper sanitation and the impacts of  not having clean and viable sanitation.

Two, how do we achieve these goals  and ongoing efforts to achieve them.

The panelists mentioned that despite substantial strides being made in the area of water and sanitation, approximately 83% and 70% of countries reported falling significantly behind the trends required to meet their defined national access targets for sanitation and drinking-water, respectively.

  • 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without.
  • At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent
  • Water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise.
  • 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines
  • More than 80 per cent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal.
  • Approximately 70 per cent of all water abstracted from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation.

The panelist mentioned that sustainable targets have been to cut the deficits in half then reduce them by half again.  These iterative targets for drinking water  have been met in 147 countries but were slightly less successful for sanitation goals.  Rather than continue on this path the new development goals are to ensure availability of sustainable management of water to everyone by 2030, a very ambitious but attainable goal.

What are the impacts of not meeting development goal number 6?

Each of the panelists mentioned that clean water and sanitation have impacts throughout an economy.  By managing water sustainably, society can better manage production of food and energy and contribute to jobs and economic growth.  It is rightly argued that proper water and sanitation is a key foundation for achieving many other development goals, including improved health and gender equality. Additionally, we can preserve our water ecosystems and their biodiversity,

Just looking into the health impacts, each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases.  More than 2million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases.  Poor hygiene and unsafe water are responsible for nearly 90 per cent of these deaths.  The lack of access to clean water and sanitation also has detrimental effects specifically on young girls and women. In most societies, women and girls are delegated to fetch and carry water to homes. The time it takes to go to a local well and carry water back to the point of use often precludes girls from attending school and getting an education.  The lack of restrooms, latrines and sanitation in schools also precludes young girls from being able to attend school and receive a formal education.  This  covert form of gender discrimination slows economic growth and development in an economy and ascribes women to a second class of citizenship.

The second aspect of the program concentrated on what can and is being done to achieve  millennium goal number 6.  From a cost perspective it is estimated by The World Health Organization that the total annual cost of meeting the sanitation target is just over $9.5 billion. If the full cost of tertiary wastewater treatment for waste streams in urban areas is added, the total rises to $100 billion. Clean water capital costs are estimated to be around $35billion annually. The panel reminded those in attendance that the maintenance and upkeep of a water system must also be determined and met  in order to achieve a sustainable water and sanitation system.  Given these costs, it is estimated that achieving the water and sanitation MDG target  could generate economic benefits, ranging from US$ 3 to US$ 34 per US$ 1 invested, depending on the region. A more than acceptable return for any project.  A return that begs the question as to why more isn’t being done given the human and social costs associated with less action.

In summarizing the issues of water and sanitation projects globally, the panel emphasized that smaller projects are often times more manageable and sustainable than larger mega projects that exist today in many major urban areas. The panelists agreed that  in terms of the governance of services, a well-run utility demonstrates four key characteristics:

  •          They are managerially and financially autonomous.
  •          They are accountable to their stakeholders.
  •          They are efficient.
  •         They are customer-oriented.

Following are several links that provide additional detail of global efforts in the area of water and sanitation.





United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Series: Clean Water and Sanitation


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