Global Water - The Facts

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
July 27, 2012

Date: 10/18/2011 Location: Washington, DC Description: Under Secretary Maria Otero addresses participants during the Opening Plenary. © Justina Towns & Stephanie Churchill (G Interns)“ We must work to ensure that no child dies from a preventable water-related disease, that no girl fears going to school for lack of access to a separate toilet, that no woman walks six kilometers to collect water for her family, and that no war is ever fought over water.”

–Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Maria Otero
March 22, 2011



  • By 2025, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will be living under water-stressed conditions, including roughly two billion people who will face absolute water scarcity. Water scarcity and poor water quality will increase disease, undermine economic growth, limit food production, and become an increasing threat to peace and security.
  • We need clean water for a healthy world. It is estimated that 1.5 million children die each year from diarrheal diseases, most often related to conditions of poor hygiene, sanitation, and water supply. There are additional deaths due to complications of malnutrition. Children cannot be adequately nourished if they suffer from chronic diarrhea.
  • Access to safe drinking water and access to sanitation are important measures of a country’s commitment to meeting basic needs, and each dollar invested can return as much as $34, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Women and girls are water collectors and are disproportionately impacted by the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation. In some parts of the world, women and girls often spend several hours per day collecting water, foregoing other economic and education opportunities; girls often have to drop out of school because of the lack of adequate sanitation. 272 million schools days are lost each year due to water and sanitation-related diseases.
  • Achieving sustainable increases in food production requires sound water management. Eighty percent of cropland worldwide is rain fed (96% in Africa). Seventy percent of the worlds freshwater goes to agriculture. Without proper soil management, watershed management, and integrated management of water supply and demand, sufficient clean water will not be available to meet the needs of people, agriculture and ecosystems.
  • More than 2.6 billion people in developing countries acquire over 20% of their food protein from fish. In areas near lakes, rivers, estuaries, seas and oceans, the amount can be as high as 50% or more. Sufficient water quantity and quality are vital to the continued availability of fish for these people’s nutrition.
  • More than 260 river basins, home to over 40% of the world’s population, are shared between two or more countries. Increasing demands and greater variability in rainfall will increase regional tensions over water.
  • Perhaps the greatest impact of climate change will be on the hydrological cycle. Greater variability in rainfall will likely increase the number and severity of floods and droughts, and rising sea levels, storm surges, flood damage, and saltwater intrusion will threaten human lives and livelihoods both directly and indirectly through diminished freshwater supplies. More frequent and heavier precipitation events are likely to flush more pollutants into water systems, for reasons ranging from increased agricultural runoff to overloaded storm and wastewater systems.