Global Water Crisis Facts
The demand for water is growing. The available resources, however, are not. In fact, many areas of the world face severe water shortages. To learn more, consider the following global water crisis facts:
- Worldwide, some 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water.1 The UN estimates one in three people don’t have access to safe drinking water, and 2 out of 5 people don’t have basic handwashing facilities.2
- In developing regions such as Asia and Africa, many people rely on surface water from sources such as lakes, ponds or rivers that may contain fecal matter, arsenic or other contaminants.3
- Consuming contaminated water can lead to a host of diseases, including cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid, polio, dysentery and diarrhea. In developing countries, 80 percent of illnesses are linked to unclean water and poor sanitation.4 Every year, 1.8 million people, mostly children under the age of 5, die from diarrheal diseases.5
- Water withdrawals have doubled since the 1960s, and there’s no sign of the demand slowing down.6 A recent study revealed 17 countries, representing a fourth of the world’s population, “face ‘extremely high’ levels of baseline water stress.”7 It’s estimated 4 billion people—70 percent of the world’s population—experience water scarcity at least one month of the year.8
- According to the World Health Organization, “In least developed countries, 22 percent of health care facilities have no water service, 21 percent no sanitation service, and 22 percent no waste management service.”9
- Areas with the highest water stress include the Middle East and North Africa, which have little rainfall but large, growing populations that are often densely located.10
- One MIT study estimates that by 2050, half of the world’s population “may be living under at least moderately stressed water-resource conditions.”11
- Many people in places such as sub-Saharan Africa must walk 30 minutes or more to collect water for their daily needs.12 This chore typically falls to women and girls and is sometimes repeated multiple times a day. According to UNICEF, “The 200 million hours women and girls spend every day collecting water is a colossal waste of their valuable time.”13
- The CDC says, “Drought can limit the growing season and create conditions that encourage insect and disease infestation in certain crops.”14
- “Prolonged water stress can have devastating effects on public health and economic development,” says the Council on Foreign Relations.15
There are many companies and organizations working to address the global water crisis. Some focus on technological advancements or improving infrastructure while others focus on humanitarian aid. GFA World, for example, focuses on the latter as part of its efforts to serve “the least of these.” More than 38 million people have been helped through GFA World’s clean water initiatives.
1 “Water Supply & Sanitation.” World Water Council. https://www.worldwatercouncil.org/en/water-supply-sanitation. Accessed November 22, 2021.
2 “Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.” United Nations. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/water-and-sanitation/. Accessed December 8, 2021.
3 Luby, Stephen. “Water Quality in South Asia.” Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2740663/ . June 2008.
4 “10 Ways Access to Clean Water Can Improve the World.” Ohio University. https://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/blog/access-to-clean-water/. March 2, 2021.
5 “Water Supply & Sanitation.” World Water Council. https://www.worldwatercouncil.org/en/water-supply-sanitation. Accessed November 22, 2021.
6 Hofste, Rutger Willem, et. al. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
7 Hofste, Rutger Willem, et. al. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
8 Mekonnen, Mesfin M., and Arjen Y. Hoekstra. “Four billion people facing severe water scarcity.” Science Advances. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1500323. February 12, 2016.
9 “Drinking-water.” World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water. June 14, 2019.
10 Felter, Claire and Kali Robinson. “Water Stress: A Global Problem That’s Getting Worse.” Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.
11 C. Adam Schlosser, Kenneth Strzepek, Xiang Gao, Arthur Gueneau, Charles Fant, Sergey Paltsev, Bilhuda Rasheed, Tony Smith-Greico, Élodie Blanc, Henry Jacoby, and John Reilly. MIT Joint Program. “The Future of Global Water Stress: An Integrated Assessment.” MIT Joint Program. https://globalchange.mit.edu/sites/default/files/MITJPSPGC_Rpt254.pdf. January 2014.
12 “Water Inequality.” National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/water-inequality/. October 1, 2019.
13 “UNICEF: Collecting water is often a colossal waste of time for women and girls.” UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/unicef-collecting-water-often-colossal-waste-time-women-and-girls. August 29, 2016.
14 “Health Implications of Drought.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/drought/implications.htm. Accessed November 19, 2021.
15 Felter, Claire, and Kali Robinson. “Water Stress: A Global Problem that’s Getting Worse.” Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/water-stress-global-problem-thats-getting-worse. April 22, 2021.