Safe Drinking Water

May 12, 2023 • Volume 33, Issue 17
Is reliable access achievable worldwide?
By Kevin Maimann


About 2 billion people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water — mostly in low-income countries — and 3.6 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation services, which can result in contaminated drinking water. Consuming untreated or poorly treated water causes 1.2 million deaths and up to 80 percent of the illnesses in low-income countries each year. Even countries with extensive water treatment systems face challenges from aging infrastructure, growing pollution and newly regulated toxic contaminants. Climate change has exacerbated these issues by contributing to droughts and floods. Experts warn that cross-border tensions are rising in places where countries share water sources. Global efforts to provide universal access to safe drinking water are in danger of backsliding, according to international agencies. Some experts say the solution lies in emerging technologies, while others warn that only a concerted focus on conservation will ensure safe drinking water for all. As the world's population continues to grow, so does demand and competition for Earth's most precious resource.

Photo of rainwater collection bottles, taken in Shagarab, Sudan, on August 15, 2021. (Getty Images/Abdulmonam Eassa)
Bottles of rainwater collected for drinking are stored in a refugee camp in Sudan, home to more than 60,000 people, mostly from neighboring Eritrea. Refugees are among the 2 billion people — a quarter of the Earth's population — who lack access to safe drinking water. (Getty Images/Abdulmonam Eassa)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Water Pollution
May 12, 2023  Safe Drinking Water
Jul. 15, 2016  Drinking Water Safety
Oct. 17, 2014  Protecting the Oceans
Jun. 18, 2010  Water Shortages
Aug. 01, 2003  Water Shortages
Nov. 24, 2000  Water Quality
Dec. 15, 1995  Global Water Shortages
Feb. 11, 1994  Water Quality
Apr. 19, 1991  California: Enough Water for the Future?
Jan. 30, 1987  Western Water
Jul. 12, 1985  Preventing Groundwater Contamination
Jan. 14, 1977  Western Water: Coming Crisis
Feb. 15, 1974  Drinking Water Safety
Aug. 11, 1965  Water Resources and National Water Needs
Dec. 08, 1960  Pollution of Water Supplies
Oct. 02, 1959  Water Needs and Resources
Jul. 01, 1955  Water for the Future
Jul. 24, 1953  Water Pollution
Feb. 15, 1950  Water Supply
Oct. 03, 1947  Unclean Waters
Sep. 17, 1935  Stream Pollution and the Disposal of Waste
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Water Pollution
Water Resources
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