Why must water be a universal resource?

#social action #environmental sustainability #SDG #society

Today, more than two million people do not have access to safe drinking water, basic hygiene and sanitation services, which are essential for any aspect of life and sustainable development. To put an end to this situation, $114 billion a year must be invested.

Some 2.1 billion people around the world are unable to access safe water in their homes, according to the World Health Organization/UNICEF Progress Report on Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, signed in 2017. And of these, the report estimates that 844 million people still lack basic drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Overall, rural areas bear the brunt: the same study shows that two out of five people live in households that manage sanitation safely, compared to three out of five in urban areas. Also, only 9 per cent of those living in rural areas can get proper sanitation, compared to 63 per cent in urban areas. These regions also have fewer hand washing areas.

Reversing this reality has become a major international goal. This is why ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is the sixth of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in September 2015 as part of Agenda 2030.

Keys to understanding world water scarcity.#RRSSKeys to understanding world water scarcity.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: Keys to understanding world water scarcity [PDF]


The Iberdrola group is going to great lengths to use water rationally and sustainably as well as tackling the risks related with its scarcity. As a result of this effort and commitment to this objective, Iberdrola is recognised as one of the utilities with the best water productivity, according to the Global 100 classification. The company is also a member of the United Nations' CEO Water Mandate, an initiative to promote sustainable water use practices, and we have participated in the CDP's Water program since it was initiated.


According to the UN in its 2018 Synthesis Report on Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation, "social development and economic prosperity depend on the sustainable management of freshwater resources and ecosystems". Thus, the availability of freshwater in adequate proportions of quality and quantity is fundamental to any aspect of life and sustainable development. The report recognises that "water resources are integrated into all forms of development, into the maintenance of economic growth in agriculture, industry and energy generation, and into the conservation of healthy ecosystems".

As noted above, WHO and UNICEF state that rural areas suffer the most water shortages, both in terms of quality and quantity. Of the 301 million people living in rural areas affected by scarce water resources and clean water, south Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are the worst hit, with India, China, Nigeria and Ethiopia being the most vulnerable countries.


Although the population with basic water services has increased by 0.49 percentage points each year since 2000, according to the UN document Progress on Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, much remains to be done in this area.

The institution emphasises in the 2018 Synthesis Report on Sustainable Development Goal 6 that achieving the goals of SDG 6 requires "multi-stakeholder participation and collaboration", and makes a special appeal to governments, institutions and citizens themselves. The former two are also being asked for more funding: "Current financial resources are insufficient to meet SDG 6", it says. This argument is corroborated by the World Bank, which estimates the approximate cost of achieving part of the objectives at $114 billion a year, according to the document.

The targets set for 2030 are:

  • Achieve universal and equitable access to safe drinking water at an affordable price for all.
  • Achieve equitable access to adequate sanitation and hygiene services for all and end open defecation.
  • Improve water quality by reducing pollution and increasing safe recycling and reuse worldwide.
  • Increase the efficient use of water resources in all sectors and ensure the sustainability of freshwater extraction and supply.
  • Expand international cooperation and support to developing countries.