World “Seriously Off Track” To Achieve SDG 6


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all member states of the United Nations back in 2015 to provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity everywhere, now and well into the future.


Making up the blueprint are 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), bringing together all countries to form a global partnership in recognition of the fact that ending deprivations such as poverty must work in collaboration with strategies to improve health and education and reduce inequality, as well as driving economic growth and tackling climate change to preserve oceans and forest around the world.


All 17 of the SDGs are integrated, which means they recognise and understand that taking action in one area will affect potential outcomes in the others. As such, development must balance sustainability in social, economic and environmental areas.




The sixth SDG acknowledges that access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is the most basic of all human needs for health and wellbeing. Despite this, however, billions of people all over the world still lack access to such basic services and, unless progress quadruples now, this will continue to be the case in 2030.


The problem is a nuanced one and different regions around the world have different issues when it comes to water, which is why finding a solution is difficult and requires cooperation across the board, bringing together local communities and governments with businesses, non-government organisations and stakeholders in order to deliver the required results.


Water demand is on the rise thanks to population growth, increasing urbanisation and pressure from agriculture, industry and the energy sector.


This is exacerbated by water mismanagement, degrading water ecosystems, water scarcity as a result of climate change, groundwater overextraction and contamination and a lack of investment in water and sanitation systems, as well as poor cooperation between regions sharing transboundary waters.


In order to achieve universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene by the year 2030, the current rate of progress would need to quadruple.


However, if the targets set out were indeed achieved, some 829,000 people would be saved annually, people who would otherwise die from diseases directly related to unsafe water, poor hygiene practices and poor sanitation.


These targets include:


– Improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising the release of chemicals and materials by 2030, as well as halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and increasing global recycling and reuse rates substantially.


– Substantially increasing water use efficiency across all sectors by 2030, while ensuring sustainable withdrawals and freshwater supplies to address water scarcity issues.


– Implementing integrated water resource management at all levels by 2030, including through appropriate transboundary cooperation.


– Expanding international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries by 2030, including water harvesting, water efficiency, desalination, wastewater treatment and recycling and reuse technologies.


Urgent action required


In order to achieve SDG 6, urgent action must be taken around the world in order to prevent devastating health impacts for millions of people globally – and it seems that not enough is being done to deliver this.


A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN-Water has found that acceleration is required on the part of many countries to achieve SDG 6, with just 25 per cent currently on track to hit their national sanitation targets. Some 45 per cent are on track to achieve drinking water coverage targets, however.


The Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) report revealed that although there has been an increase in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in budgets in some countries, more than 75 per cent say they have insufficient funding to implement their plans and strategies.


Climate change is only making the situation worse, with more frequent and more extreme weather events highlighting water-related issues and emphasising just how important it is for global cooperation and the adoption of a whole-of-society approach.


The analysis found, however, that the majority of WASH plans and policies do not consider the risks of climate change to WASH services, nor do they take into account the resilience of technologies and management systems.


Commenting on the findings, Gilbert Houngbo – chair of UN-Water and director-general of the International Labour Organization – said: “The world is seriously off track to achieve SDG 6 on water and sanitation for all by 2030. This leaves billions of people dangerously exposed to infectious diseases, especially in the aftermath of disasters, including climate-related events.


“The new data from GLAAS will inform the voluntary commitments the international community will make at the UN 2023 Water Conference in March, helping us target the most vulnerable communities and solve the global water and sanitation crisis.”


Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, made further comments, saying that the crisis is an urgent one and millions of lives are claimed each year because of poor access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.


“We call on governments and development partners to strengthen WASH systems and dramatically increase investment to extend access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services to all by 2030, beginning with the most vulnerable,” he went on to say.


This year’s Sustainable Development Goals Report only serves to corroborate the GLAAS findings, indicating that all 17 of the goals are being put at risk thanks to a confluence of covid-19, climate change and conflict, all of which are now driving impacts on food and nutrition, the environment, health, education and peace and security.


For help and advice relating to business water management, get in touch with the H2o Building Services team today.