Goal 6 aims to provide universal access to safe water and sanitation, which in addition to immediate health benefits has positive impacts on socioeconomic issues such as education and employment, particularly for women and girls. Globally, 12% of the population lack access to drinking water services, and 32% lack access to basic sanitation services. The use of such services has increased more rapidly than use of basic drinking water services, however, no region is on track to achieve universal basic sanitation by 2030. Lack of access to water and sanitation for health (WASH) is more pronounced in developing and emerging markets in Central & South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Globally, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population growth over the last century, and water scarcity is a reality in parts of the world. By 2030, global water demand will be 40% above accessible, reliable supply and one-third of the population (concentrated in developing countries) will reside in basins where this deficit is larger than 50%.
Opportunities & Challenges
Access to WASH relies on broader water security and water resource management, and faces several opportunities:
Improving water efficiency in agriculture (71% of global water use) and industry (16%) can reduce the number of people affected by water scarcity. The annual rate of efficiency improvement in agricultural and industrial water use between 1990 and 2004 was just 1%. Efficient water use is essential in India and China, both of which will see water demand outstripping supply by 2030 according to McKinsey.
As global water requirements grow, the allocation of water to where it is most needed will be critical. Water and sanitation infrastructure is often derelict and unable to cope with growing demographics. For example, roughly 37% of the water supply is lost to leaks in South Africa.
Lack of WASH access is driven by water quality and availability, the former of which can be compromised by infectious agents and toxic chemicals. In China, industrial and domestic pollution renders 21% of available surface water unfit even for agriculture. Over 80% of wastewater generated in developing countries is discharged without treatment into surface water bodies. As a result, 3.4 million people, mostly children, die annually from water-related diseases. Although 80% of water used by humans is surface water, the growing water crisis is leading many to investigate unconventional water sources. More efficient and cost-effective desalination processes are being developed such as reverse osmosis. In Australia, scientists are investigating areas which could be suitable for the harvesting of storm water, an untapped sustainable water resource.
Mapping water resources: Understanding the demand and supply of water in the coming decades will be crucial in order to close the “water gap”. This involves monitoring of information regarding the geography and hydrology of land, drainage basins, water table conditions and rainfall. Data analysts can map and model key scenarios and risks and pinpoint intervention points for impact, such as new freshwater sources or optimal points for aquifers. Exchange of this data between service centers and countries will be crucial to building a global picture.
Smart allocation of water supply can enhance access to clean water; for example, through pipeline sensors which allocate water based on day-to-day consumption and water levels in a dam.Darshan Mundada, Sterlite Technologies
Next generation, post-silicon sensors can power smart cities and smart water management by assessing water quality and quantity from the outside of pipes.Jody Ranck, RAM Group
Technology in action
Digital technology will play a key role in addressing these challenges:
IoT and sensors can drive efficiencies in both supply and demand. Smart pipes monitor and provide information about the state of the pipes (including leaks), and trigger corrective actions. For example Zonescan Alpha has reduced water loss by two million liters in a south German town. Sensord can significantly improve agricultural irrigation efficiencies through soil and humidity monitoring and remote management. More broadly, sensors can monitor surface water avaialability and provide early warning systems, such as in the hydrological sensor web for South Esk river catchment area in Tasmania. Sensors systems can also be used to assess water quality and transmit information to decision makers. FREDsense is a portable, cost-effective sensor and testing platform that can detect a variety of chemicals and contaminants in under an hour.
AI can be used to analyze water-related data and optimize use for industrial and water management companies. Pluto AI is an analytics platform that extracts insights from unstructured data to help companies reduce water wastage, predict asset health and minimize operating costs,
Satellites and drones can collect data for watershed mapping and surface mapping. Utilis provides satellite imagery to detect leaks in water distribution systems.Get Involved