washing hands in clean water

    SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation

    Protecting water reserves

    Gathering water from wells or contaminated streams a considerable distance away and defecating outdoors are still the norm for many people. More than 2 billion people worldwide still do not have access to safe drinking water.

    That said, there have already been clear signs of progress towards achieving this UN Sustainable Development Goal: UNICEF and WHO figures indicate that, between 2015 and 2022, the percentage of the world’s population with access to a safe water supply increased from 69% to 73%. Further progress is expected; however, at the current rate of progress, some 1.6 billion people are still expected to be without safe drinking water supplies in 2030. To achieve the 2030 Agenda target for drinking water, the pace of progress would have to increase sixfold.

    In SDG 6, the UN has undertaken to “ensure access to water and sanitation for all”. This is because there is still also a lack of adequate sanitation: access to safe sanitation grew from 49% to 57% in the aforementioned time period (2015 – 2022), and a further 18% of the world’s population has access to basic sanitation. However, over 400 million people (as at 2022) still had to defecate outdoors. This not only increases the risk of infectious diseases; it also leads to water resources becoming polluted.

    In addition, increasing water scarcity in large parts of the world is a problem that is exacerbated by climate change and conflicts. According to estimates, around 2.4 billion people (2020) live in so-called "water-stressed countries", countries with (in some cases considerable) water shortages. The fight for a fair distribution of water resources can also lead to social unrest and riots in these regions.

    For many years, KfW has been helping to ensure that people in developing countries and emerging economies have a safe supply of drinking water and access to good, safe sanitation. This includes funding potabilization and drinking water distribution, programmes to reduce water loss and improve water use efficiency, measures to ensure safe sanitation and the treatment of sewage, integrated water resource management projects, or funding sector reform programmes.

    The water sector has long been a high priority within KfW Development Bank and represents one of the largest sectors. In 2023, more than EUR 540 million were committed to projects that contribute to the achievement of SDG 6. KfW is thus reaffirming its commitment to helping people in developing countries and emerging economies to improve their drinking water and sanitation and to counter the effects of climate change through the management of water resources.

    “A crisis in slow motion”

    Interview with Dr Christian Lütke Wöstmann, Director of KfW’s Centre of Competence for Infrastructure, Water and Natural Resources, on global water shortages and why we underestimate the risks associated with them.

    Clear water for Cape Town - Modernisation of treatment plants

    KfW's contribution to SDG 6