Image of a drop of water

Valuing Water

The 2021 World Water Development Report on “Valuing Water” assesses the current status of, and challenges to, the valuation of water across different sectors and perspectives, and identifies ways in which valuation can be promoted as a tool to help achieve sustainability.

Water is a unique resource

Water is a unique and non-substitutable resource of limited quantity. As the foundation of life, societies and economies, it carries multiple values and benefits. But unlike most other valuable resources, it has proven extremely difficult to determine its true ‘value’.

The 2021 World Water Development Report on “Valuing Water” assesses the current status of, and challenges to, the valuation of water across different sectors and perspectives, and identifies ways in which valuation can be promoted as a tool to help achieve sustainability.

Valuing Water: a preview of the UN World Water Development Report 2021
Water is our most precious resource, a ‘blue gold’ to which more than 2 billion people do not have direct access. It not only is essential to survival, but also plays a sanitary, social and cultural role at the heart of human societies.

Ignoring the value of water is the main cause of water waste and misuse

  • Water has multiple values. 
  • Approaches to valuing water vary widely across – and even within – different user dimensions and perspectives. 
  • The failure to fully value water in all in its different uses is considered a root cause, or a symptom, of the political neglect of water and its mismanagement.
  • Recognizing, measuring and expressing water’s multiple values, and incorporating these into decision-making processes, are fundamental to achieving sustainable and equitable water resources management. 
Child washing hands

How do you value water?

Traditional economic accounting tends to limit water values to the way that most other products are valued, but water is not like other raw materials: its price, its cost of delivery, and its value are not synonymous.
While the first two are potentially quantifiable from a basic monetary point of view, the notion of ‘value’ covers a much wider range of intangible benefits.

What do you know about water data?

80% of all industrial and municipal wastewater

is released into the environment

Over 3 billion people

lack adequate access to hand hygiene facilities

US$76.8
billion in economic losses

caused by floods between 2009–2019

50%
of all malnutrition

are caused by a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene.

71%
of the global population

used a safely managed drinking water service

45%
of the global population

used safely managed sanitation services

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Contribution partners

UN-Water members that contributed to the UN World Water Development Report 2021

UN WATER