The Water Gap: With 60% of the world now living in water stressed areas, WaterAid report reveals nations with lowest access to water

21 March 2018

With Cape Town working to avert its ‘Day Zero’, when water taps are likely to be shutoff, a new WaterAid report reveals millions of others around the world already face these conditions daily.

 WaterAid’s State of the World’s Water 2018: The Water Gap reveals Uganda, Niger, Mozambique, India and Pakistan are among the countries where the highest percentage or largest number of people cannot get clean water within a half-hour round trip.

The report, released to mark World Water Day on 22 March, also includes new data on the often-sizeable gap between rich and poor when it comes to access to water.

Today, 163 million people in India do not have access to clean water, a number which has risen from last year. This is in part because those who are not able to fetch water within a half hour round trip are no longer counted as having access to water.

Reasons why people are deprived of access to water:

  • Lack of financing and political priority
  • Lack of institutions capable of delivering and maintaining
  • Lack of effective taxation and tariffs
  • Location and land tenure
  • Discrimination
  • Disaster and displacement

 Among the main findings:

  • Eritrea, Papua New Guinea and Uganda are the three countries with lowest access to clean water close to home, with Uganda a new addition to the list this year at 38% access.
  • Mozambique ranks fourth in the table of countries making greatest progress in water provision, but remains 10th in the world for lowest access to water. Its capital city, Maputo, is currently experiencing severe water shortages and is now preparing for rationing.
  • Cambodia is among the top-10 countries most improved by percentage points, with 75% of people now enjoying clean water close to home, compared to 52% in 2000.
  • Almost every country struggling to provide its people with clean water also has a huge gap in access between richest and poorest. For instance, in Niger, only 41% of the poorest people have access to water, while 72% of its wealthiest do. In neighbouring Mali, the gap widens to 45% and 93%, respectively.
  • India, while still having the most people without clean water, is also near the top of the list for most people reached since 2000 – more than 300 million, or nearly equivalent to the population of the United States.

The report comes as nations prepare for a July 2018 review of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6, to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030.

WaterAid India’s Chief Executive, VK Madhavan, said:

 “Of the 844 million people without access to clean water globally, 163 million are in India.

 India’s success in providing its citizens with access to clean water will significantly impact the success of global goals.

 The government’s goal to provide 90 per cent of rural households with piped water supply by 2022 along with restructuring of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) is a welcome step towards achieving this goal. 

 The fact that India has provided more than 300 million people with access to clean water in past 15 years is reason for hope.”

This World Water Day, WaterAid is calling for: 

  • Recognition that the UN Global Goals are everyone’s responsibility to deliver, to ensure no one is left behind. Everyone is accountable if they fail.
  • Responsible environmental management, including regulating the use of water in agriculture and industry, to protect and preserve enough clean water for communities’ basic needs.
  • Include access to water, sanitation and hygiene as central to health, education, nutrition and gender equality. Without water, none of the other UN Global Goals can be met.
  • Urgent action on the ground, at regional, national and global scale. Access to safe drinking water is a UN-recognised human right: politicians need to prioritise it and fund it, civil society must help all people speak out for their rights, and those working in water, sanitation and hygiene must support service providers and government to respond.
  • Mobilising resources from taxes, tariffs and transfers, and increasing the amount and proportion of aid for water, sanitation and hygiene, to close the gaps in financing. This also means supporting institutions to ensure they are accountable and well-governed, so that money is well-spent, and promoting pro-poor policies that ensure access to water for everyone.


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