Various factors such as population growth, urbanisation and climate change are causing water shortages in many places around the world. Lack of safe and reliable water causes millions of human deaths a year. There are a number of ways that people can manage water better to minimise water ‘stress’ and help the environment.


Water is a finite and irreplaceable resource.

Water is essential for life. Adequate safe water is crucial for healthy ecosystems and fundamental to human well-being. It is vital for reducing disease and improving the health, welfare and productiveness of human populations. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between the climate system, human society and the environment.

Water management is a serious challenge for sustainability but managed efficiently and equitably, it can play an important role in boosting the resilience of social, economic and environmental systems.

However, in the world today a total of 748 million people do not have access to a safe and reliable water source. To achieve the right to access safe drinking water requires real improvements for several billions of people.

Main uses of water


Agriculture is by far the biggest consumer of water globally, accounting for 70% of withdrawals worldwide, although this figure varies considerably between countries.

Industry and energy

Industry and energy together account for 20% of water demand. More-developed countries have a much larger proportion of freshwater withdrawals for industry than less-developed countries, where agriculture dominates.


Domestic sector accounts for 10% of total water use. And yet, worldwide, an estimated 748 million people remain without access to an improved source of water and 2.5 billion remain without access to improved sanitation.


More than half the world already lives in urban areas and by 2050, it is expected that more than two-thirds of the global population of around 9 billion will be living in cities. Furthermore, most of this growth will happen in developing countries, which have limited capacity to deal with this rapid change, and the growth will also lead to increase in the number of people living in slums, which often have very poor living conditions, including inadequate water and sanitation facilities.


Global environmental degradation has reached a critical level with major ecosystems approaching thresholds that could trigger massive collapse. The growing understanding of global planetary boundaries, which must be respected to protect Earth’s life support systems, needs to be the basis of sustainability efforts.