Water supply to meet the MDGs

Water supply to meet the MDGs

Can there be potable water in every community by the year 2015?

Are investments in water really affecting the needy?

  • Water covers at least 70% of the earth’s surface, but only 2.6% of this is freshwater. This small volume of freshwater is unevenly distributed. Also, some of the groundwater sources are non-renewable
  • More than 880 million of our fellow human beings have no choice but to use potentially harmful sources of water at some point in time. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for over a third of this number, and is lagging behind in progress towards the MDG target (UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme, 2010)
  • 84% of the world’s population without an improved drinking water source live in rural/slum areas. In fact, the ratio of the rural/slum population without an improved water source to that of the urban population is over 5:1 (UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme, 2010)
"Thousands have lived without love, not one without water."
W.H. Auden

Source: UNICEF/WHO (2012) Joint Monitoring Programme for water supply and sanitation.

A systems approach to the development of water resources can deliver quicker results

"Anyone who can solve the problems of water will be worthy of two Nobel prizes - one for peace and one for science."
John F. Kennedy

From the Joint Monitoring Report (2010) the World appears to be on-track to attain the MDG target on water. The focus of the MDG target must gradually shift to include sustainability, household access and operation and maintenance of water systems. A 30 minute round trip to collect water may still not guarantee the desired water quality.

How can we accelerate progress?

  • Re-evaluate strategies on improving rural access to potable water
  • Adopt a systems approach to the development of water resources. This is critical in overcoming the challenge of renewability of water resources
  • Aim national/regional strategies at developing adequate storage systems and/or improving the capacities of existing ones to ensure all-year-round availability of water
  • Recycle wastewater and harvest rainfall to supplement surface/ground water sources
  • Intensify outreach programmes on water conservation and management


  1. WHO/UNICEF (2010) Joint Monitoring Programme Report
  2. McMahon, T.A. and Finlayson, B.L.. (1992) Global Runoff: Continental Comparisons of Annual Flows and Peak Discharges