The sixth Sustainable Development Goal “Clean water and sanitation” strikes to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030. Water and sanitation are a human right declared by the UN which all 192 member countries of UN have signed to support.
2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines and at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated, which makes this goal crucial to achieve when talking about a sustainable future
The UN have set six targets which will tackle the complex problems connected to the SDG, including:
– By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
– By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
– By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
– Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management
The first part of the goal “access to clean water” plays a fundamental role in a sustainable development since water occurs in all we know, ecosystems, food security and livelihood in general. Without water, food production will decrease, hygiene facilities, health clinics and people in rural areas are the most vulnerable to the lack of clean water. Another harmful aspect is due to more than 80 percent of wastewater from the agriculture section and other human activities that are discharged into rivers or sea without advanced or any pollution removal.
However, a lot of improvement can be found among ensuring clean water; estimated number shows that in 2015, 91 percent of the world population had access to drinking water while 663 million still used unimproved water sources or surface water that year.
The first target of the goal is aiming to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030, and organisations like WHO, UNICEF and UN themselves are already in progress. UNICEF launched the project called WASH focusing on the three aspects; Water, sanitation and hygiene.
Some of the work in WASH is dealing with giving families access to clean and affordable drinking water within a reasonable distance from the household as well as educating children about hygiene and the right handle of groundwater to prevent contamination.
Another major issue which has to be solved is about water stress.
Water stress is when the demand for water is higher than the amount available for use, causing the water to get deteriorated and easier contaminated. Normally the total level of freshwater withdrawn to total renewable freshwater level should be below 25 percent. Northern Africa and Western Asia experience water stress levels above 60 percent, which indicates the strong probability of future water scarcity. More than 2 billion people globally are living in countries with excess water stress. 
The second part of the goal profoundly influenced by ensuring clean water is about sanitation. Sanitation is about making sure that all have access to hygiene and cleaning facilities. Lack of daily sanitation leads to quickly spread and vulnerability for diseases. Right now, one of the biggest problems with lack of sanitation is considered to be about women not having prober sanitation.
It is estimated that in 2012, 6,6 million children didn’t reach an age of five. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 10 children dies before reaching the age of five having the highest infant mortality. The most common causes of death are diseases like Diarrhoea and Pneumonia directly linked to none or poor sanitation.
Another effect of not having adequate sanitation for children is it prevents them from attending school. Providing children with basic hygienic toilets minimise the number of children hit by diarrhoea and worm infection and therefore more likely to attend more school days.
In 2015, 91 percent of the world population could celebrate having access to clean water, and 68 percent of the world used an improved sanitation facility, though missing the Millennium Development Goal with almost 700 million people. However, there are reason for optimism knowing programs set in action from major human right organisations, like WASH, Toilet Day and the acknowledgement of the fundamental human right to have access to drinking water and sanitation for everyone by 2030.
Access to non-contaminated water and adequate sanitation is a key factor of the Sustainable Development Goals, and we cannot avoid having this as an essential part of our Short Course as well. The issues about water and sanitation will have a central focus in some of our workshops, and we will talk about this profoundly, exploring and discussing it from different angles and perspectives to further understand a complicated but yet necessary element for building a sustainable future.
This is part 7/18 of a series on the Sustainable Development Goals.