Delivering Clean Water to the Many in Need

Examining the immense scale of the challenge in delivering clean drinking water to everyone in the world.

Read Time: 2 minutes

August 11, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Drinking Water

Michael Pettigrew / Shutterstock

Jonathan Doyle reports on the challenges facing the United Nations' plans to achieve universal access to safe drinking water around the world, and the progress made so far toward that goal.

The goal, included among 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in 2015, is stated as, "Achieving universal access to water sources that are improved, with a round trip for water collection not exceeding 30 minutes, safe from contamination, and available when needed," with a target date of 2030.

The challenge is daunting. According to data cited by Doyle,  785 million around the world did not have access to basic water services in 2017. About 144 million people were collecting water directly from surface water sources in 2017. Finally, at least 2 billion people get their water from a source contaminated by feces.

For signs of progress on the clean water SDG, Doyle points first to the United States, with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) approved in 1974 and amended in 1996 (unmentioned are the failures of that law to protect the people of Flint, to cite one conspicuous example). At the international level, Doyle points to work by the United Nations and the World Health Organization. But the most significant achievements are credited to NGOs such as World Vision, which claims to have delivered sustainable, clear water to 20 million people as of 2020. Finally, Doyle credits the private sector with achievements in water filtration technologies that are also providing benefits around the world.

[Disclaimer: the end of the article shifts to content marketing for water filtration systems.].

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