World’s poorest spend the most on water

21 March 2016


WaterAid releases ‘Water: At what cost? The State of the World’s Water’

WaterAid's new report, reveals that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1% of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while, in a country like Madagascar, however, a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45% of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water points.

Topping the list of 10 worst countries for household access to clean water is the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea—poor, rural, and faced with rising seas and extreme weather from climate change. Poor families living in Papua New Guinea have no choice but to spend more than half their meager income on this basic essential.

Worldwide, some 650 million people in the world still do not have access to clean water and more than 2.3 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation, with devastating results.

Some 315,000 children under the age of five die each year of diarrheal diseases related to the lack of these basic rights. And 50% of malnutrition cases are linked to chronic diarrhea caused by lack of clean water, good sanitation and good hygiene including handwashing with soap.

The report ranks nations based on rates of household access to water and on highest populations without access to water, and includes a list of the countries which have improved most in the last 15 years.


Among the main findings:

  • Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Angola are the nations in the world with the lowest percentage of households with access to clean water
  • In Papua New Guinea, an average person living in poverty will spend 54% of their salary to access the World Health Organization-recommended minimum 50 of water liters per day to meet basic needs. The average use in the US is about 370 liters per person, per day.
  • India, China and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people waiting for access to clean water
  • Cambodia, Mali, Laos and Ethiopia have made more progress than any other nations on improving access to water for their populations.
  • Despite much progress, the report finds that inequalities persist even in nations that have made great strides, with the poorest people often paying the highest percentages of their income on water.
  • There remain 16 countries in the world where 40% or more of their population does not have access to clean water – due to lack of government prioritization, lack of dedicated funding, shortages in human resources and/or the exacerbating effects of climate change on water availability and quality combined.

Sarina Prabasi, WaterAid America Chief Executive, said "Clean, affordable drinking water is not a privilege: it’s a fundamental human right. This World Water Day, let’s celebrate the unprecedented progress that’s been made in helping more people than ever before gain access to clean water. But let’s also double down on our efforts so that everyone, everywhere can exercise their basic right to clean water by the year 2030."

On this World Water Day, WaterAid is reminding governments that the promises of the UN Global Goals on Sustainable Development to eradicate extreme poverty and create a fairer, more sustainable world, includes Goal 6 to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and access to safe, private toilets by 2030. This promise is achievable but it will take a serious political shift and financing to get there.

Read the full report today >