illustration of water running through landscape

Our very existence depends on water. We all need water to drink and water to grow food. Water-related ecosystems also sustain livelihoods, food security and nutrition. However, freshwater is becoming increasingly scarce. Today, 3.2 billion people live in agricultural areas with high or very high water shortages or scarcity, of whom 1.2 billion people live in areas with very high water constraints. Ensuring more productive and sustainable use of freshwater and rainwater in agriculture, the world’s largest water user, is key to managing scarce water resources.

hands collecting water from tap

As the population of cities and urban areas in Africa is set to explode in the coming decades, how can we ensure an adequate supply of water for city dwellers?

A boy in a farm dressed like a papaya.

In the Sechura desert, on Peru’s northern coast, several hours away from the main roads, hundreds of families survive hand-to-mouth. Drinking water is unavailable, and nutritious food is scarce – and expensive. Or, at least, it was. Thanks to a project backed by WFP, families share a 900-metre plot of land where they farm organic vegetables and raise farm animals. A drip irrigation system, installed with WFP’s support, allows for efficient use of underground waters, which the families can access through a communal reservoir. Families can now keep part of their harvest and sell the rest.

women watering plants

Irrigated crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry, account for roughly 70 per cent of total freshwater withdrawals globally. IFAD invests in multiple water use strategies in rural areas.

water in a cave

Groundwater accounts for 99% of all liquid freshwater on Earth. However, this natural resource is often poorly understood and consequently undervalued, mismanaged and even abused. According to a report published by UNESCO, the vast potential of groundwater, and the need to manage it sustainably, can no longer be overlooked. Globally, water use is projected to grow by roughly 1% per year over the next 30 years. Our overall dependence on groundwater is expected to rise as surface water availability becomes increasingly limited due to climate change.

water coming out of a pipe

Groundwater has helped lift millions of people out of poverty since technologies for drilling and energy sources for pumping became widely available to rural farmers during the latter half of the 20th century. With a projected increase of 50 percent in the demand for food, feed and biofuels by 2050, relative to 2012 levels, the depletion of groundwater, left unabated, threatens to undermine food security, basic water supplies and resilience to the climate crisis on a global scale. As is so often the case, the poorest and most marginalized communities stand to lose the most.

water tap

In the fifth episode of the UN climate action podcast No Denying It, United Nations Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall, known for her groundbreaking scientific work studying chimpanzees, interviews Xiaoyuan "Charlene" Ren.

Ms. Ren is the founder of MyH20, a network that collects drinking water data to help find solutions to improve water quality across China. Globally, two billion people lack access to safe drinking water, a figure that will only go up as infrastructure struggles to keep pace with new climate change-related weather patterns.


A girl carries a container of water on her shoulder.

The right to safe drinking water and sanitation is rooted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations resolutions and the Geneva conventions. It is a right that is as critical to the survival of children as food, medical care, and protection from attack. But from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to Ukraine to Yemen, crises have become increasingly protracted and conflict threatens interconnected urban service systems. To improve children’s access to clean drinking water, and to save lives in conflicts and crises, UNICEF calls for three major changes.

An illustration of a woman holding up a water drop in front of multiple mirrors.

The United Nations World Water Development Report, published by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water, shows that the inability to recognize the value of water is the main cause of water waste and misuse.

Beach full of trash

Water is the lifeblood of all life on Earth. And yet, over 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water. Over 4 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation. Water shortages now affect more than 3 billion people. Three quarters of all the natural disasters are water-related, including floods, landslides, and other extreme weather events. A recent OHCHR report describes the global water crisis, focusing on the negative impacts of water pollution, water scarcity and water-related disasters on the enjoyment of several human rights.

women in the forest, carrying water on their backs

Around the world some 2.2 billion people lack safely managed drinking water, 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation, and 700 million people could be displaced due to scarcity of water by 2030. A number of factors are contributing to the world’s water crisis, not least rising temperatures, shifting rainfall, and extreme weather driven by a warming planet. To address the challenges, UNDP is working with governments and communities worldwide to achieve equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. 

illustration of a river running through a field

Water has enormous and complex value for our households, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. This year, the observance, organized by UN Water, is about what water means to people, its true value and how we can better protect this vital resource. Join the conversation and tell us your story!

illustration of water and plants

More and more people in water-scarce countries rely on desalinated water for drinking, cooking and washing. Here are five things to know about desalination.


Around 1.8 billion people are at heightened risk of COVID-19 and other diseases because they use or work in health care facilities without basic water services, warn WHO and UNICEF. The situation is worst of all in the world’s 47 Least Developed Countries (LDCs): 1 in 2 health care facilities does not have basic drinking water, 1 in 4 health care facilities has no hand hygiene facilities at points of care; and 3 in 5 lack basic sanitation services.