The Road from Thirst

WASHINGTON, DC – Millions of the world’s poorest people face serious water-related challenges – from lack of access and shortages to disputes over supplies – with profound implications for security, economic development, and environmental sustainability. As world leaders design a development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in 2015, addressing these issues should be a top priority.

Consider this: Almost one billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation. The costs are staggering: thousands of child deaths every day, and annual economic losses estimated at $260 billion – more than double the total amount of official development assistance.

Making matters worse, climate change will render water supplies more unpredictable, with increasingly frequent and intense floods and droughts imposing significant human and economic costs and impeding development in poor countries. And the expanding global population – set to reach more than 9.5 billion by 2050 – will strain water resources still further.

Urgent action is needed to ensure access to safe, affordable water and sanitation for all. First, drastic improvements in water-related services – including supply and sanitation, irrigation and drainage, energy, and environmental facilities – are needed to improve health outcomes and enable more people to escape poverty.