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Livable Planet

Over 2 Billion People Worldwide Don't Have Access to Basic Sanitation Services

The Sustainable Development Goals have specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. Today, we take a look at Goal #6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
Image via UN

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals are 17 encompassing objectives meant to address the world's most pressing health, educational, social and economic issues by 2030. This month, the UN General Assembly, as well as many of the governing bodies behind the UN's SDGs, will be convening and we'll be breaking down a goal a day.

SDG #6: Clean Water and Sanitation

There's enough clean water to take care of the global community, yet 40 percent of people suffer from water scarcity, and water-related diseases remain a leading cause of death for young children. Changing these rising numbers isn't an easy task -- It's going to take major infrastructure development, education, and community cooperation in some of the world's most rural regions to achieve affordable and equitable access to clean water worldwide by 2030.

The Effect

Water scarcity and pollution has a demonstrated political, social and financial impact across the globe, with The World Bank connecting the economic impact of not investing in water sanitation to a 6.4 percent loss of India's GDP, and a 4.3 percent GDP loss in sub-Saharan Africa. And water crises continue to impact communities, even close to home.

The Flint, Michigan water crisis, discovered in 2015, exposed thousands of children to lead-related health complications including developmental delays and behavioral disorders, and may cost the city as much as $400 million in recovery efforts over the coming years. And as if that wasn't troubling enough, a 2016 investigation from The Guardian found that 33 U.S. cities across 17 states were using water testing "cheats" that may expose communities to toxic water.


The "You" Factor

Advocacy meets reporting with organizations like Food and Water Watch and Circle of Blue. Stay informed, and take action.


The Water Project is fighting water scarcity across the African continent by investing in established, local NGOs focused on water purification and accessibility. They say, "Smaller, more nimble, and locally-based implementation partners are incredibly effective and efficient at providing sustainable clean water solutions," and their impact is easy to monitor through an interactive map that tells the story of every project they've completed.

Canadian-based Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology is a certified engineering firm and charity focused on providing technical assistance and education to NGOs fighting for clean water in 190 countries. The organization focuses on making household water treatment a reality across the globe and provides the training and resources necessary for local and international non-profits to implement these strategies.

At Home

Dig Deep "is not a water charity," they say. "We're a human rights non-profit working to ensure that every American has clean, running water forever." 1.3 million Americans are still without running water, and this organization is working to change that through field projects like their Navajo Water Project, which is working to bring new wells, water delivery systems, and home water systems to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. They also provide education and advocacy opportunities to help people better understand and support sustainable water systems across the country.

To learn more about the SDGs, head to the Goalkeepers site created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which highlights an event in New York City on September 19 and 20 that convenes activists, world leaders, and the public to share their successes and challenges in advancing the SDG agenda. And September 25 is a global day of action on the SDGs -- find an event or opportunity near you.