Valuing water supply, sanitation services

Water is a basic human need, required for drinking and to support sanitation and hygiene, sustaining life and health.
The access to both water and sanitation are human rights.
Collecting natural spring water with a water bottle
Last update: 21 أبريل 2022

The role of water in our daily life (within households, schools, workplaces and health care facilities) is often overlooked, but the value of water for WASH (water and sanitation services) is priceless.

To give the right value to water and sanitation services we need to take into account the benefits these services bring to people, such as improved living conditions and productivity, reduced health care costs, and involvement in the workplace.

Women, and particularly young girls, who shoulder the burden of bringing drinking water closer to home, are often key target beneficiaries of improved services. 

Across 61 countries, women and girls were responsible for carrying water in 8 out of 10 households

which equals 200 million hours, or 8.3 million days, or 22,800 years

An Indian woman carrying a large jug of water on her head

It is estimated that achieving universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation in 140 low- and middle-income countries would cost about USD 114 billion per year. 

The benefit–cost ratio of such investments has been shown to provide a significant positive return. Returns on hygiene are even higher, as they can greatly improve health outcomes in many cases with little need for additional expensive infrastructure.

The year 2020 saw the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the world’s most vulnerable people the hardest – many of them living in informal settlements and urban slums.  

Hand hygiene is extremely important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (see UNESCO's response to COVID-19).

Globally, over three billion people and two out of five health care facilities lack adequate access to hand hygiene facilities. Inadequate access to hand hygiene facilities causes an increased risk for the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. 

The value lost in human life, and in educational and economic potential, is a burden on society.  

The access to clean water and to safe sanitation services, contributes to a life of dignity and equality. 

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