Sustainable Development Goals

Charting progress towards SDG 6: Clean Water

Visualising global and regional trends

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations (UN) members, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for making the world a better place by 2030. They are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet‘, and goals are to be achieved by all countries, in global partnership, by 2030.

This page provides a selection of visualisations on global and regional trends for Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

The visualisations use the latest official data from the United Nations SDG Global Database.

Target 6.1

By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


6.1.1Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services

From 2000 to 2020, the share of the world population using safely managed drinking water services increased from 62% to 74%.

Safely managed drinking water services are defined by the UN as:

Drinking water from an improved water source which is located on premises, available when needed and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination. Improved water sources include piped water, boreholes or tubewells, protected dug wells, protected springs and packaged or delivered water.

Although access to safe drinking water is increasing, 2 billion people are still without such services. The UN estimates that the current pace of progress needs to quadruple to meet the target in 2030 of universal access for all. If current trends continue, 1.6 billion will still be without safely managed drinking water in 2030.

Regionally, the situation is most pressing in Sub-Saharan Africa, where only 1 of 3 has access to safely managed drinking water services.

Note that the regional groupings used in the visualisation above (and all other visualisations on this page with regional data) follow the UN regional classification for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Target 6.2

By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


6.2.1Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water

Progress has been made in increasing the share of the world population using safely managed sanitation services. As of 2020, 54% of the world's population has access to safely managed sanitation services compared to 29% in 2000 and 47% in 2015.

Such services are defined by the UN as:

Use of improved facilities which are not shared with other households and where excreta are safely disposed in situ or transported and treated off-site. Improved sanitation facilities include flush/pour flush to piped sewer system, septic tanks or pit latrines; ventilated improved pit latrines, composting toilets or pit latrines with slabs.

With regards to basic handwashing services, access has also increased over the past few years. However, there is still progress to be made, with 29% of the world's population lacking such access in 2020. Basic handwashing services is defined as having a handwashing facility with soap and water at home.

The rate of progress for both hand washing and sanitation services needs to quadruple if the target of universal coverage is to be achieved globally by 2030.

Regionally, Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest share of the population with access. Worryingly, the region has had one of the lowest growth rates in access to safe sanitation services over the past two decades, while the share of the population with access to handwashing facilities has remained stable at 25% over the past decade.

Target 6.3

By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


6.3.1Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated
6.3.2Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality

The latest data from 2020 on domestic wastewater flows shows that globally just over half of all wastewater is safely treated, with regional averages ranging from 25% in Central and Southern Asia to 80% in Europe and Northern America.

There is a lack of data on industrial wastewater. The UN has previously estimated that only a third of industrial wastewater was safely treated (based on data from 2015). However, the data sample included only 42 countries (covering 18% of the world population), illustrating the urgent need for more accurate data.

Data on water quality is also lacking. The most recent UN estimate based on data from a sample of 97 countries, showed that only 60% of water was of good ambient quality. However, only 1% of the water bodies included in the sample were in the poorest countries. As the UN notes in the SDG 2022 progress report:

For at least 3 billion people, the quality of the water they rely upon is unknown due to the lack of monitoring.

Target 6.4

By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity


6.4.1Change in water-use efficiency over time
6.4.2Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources

Water-use efficiency

Water-use efficiency (WUE) is defined as the value added of a given major sector divided by the volume of water used. Globally, WUE increased from 17.4 USD per cubic meter of water in 2015 to 19.4 USD in 2019. The increase means that water-use efficiency rose by 12% as more output was produced per cubic meter of water.

Water-use efficiency varies significantly between sectors. Agriculture is the largest water-use sector, but the water-use efficiency was only 0.63 USD per cubic meter of water in 2019, up from 0.56 USD in 2015.

All sectors have increased their water-use efficiency over the past five years, however, improving efficiency further, especially in the agricultural sector, is a key challenge in light of the increased demand for water driven by population growth and economic growth.

Regionally, water-use efficiency ranges from 3 USD in Central and Southern Asia to 72 USD in Oceania. Most regions have only seen marginal gains in water-use efficiency over the past five years.

Water stress

Water stress is defined happening when more than 25% of available freshwater resources are withdrawn. Globally, the current ratio is at 19%, approximately unchanged from 2015. Global water stress can thus be said to be below the "water-stress" threshold. However, in Northern Africa and Western Asia, water stress is classified as being at a high level (between 75%-100%), with over 84% of available freshwater resources withdrawn in 2019, up from 70% in 2015.

Target 6.5

By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


6.5.1Degree of integrated water resources management
6.5.2Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation

Integrated water resources management

This indicator is measured by the degree of implementation of the internationally established framework of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWMR). In the framework, each country is surveyed with 33 questions covering four areas and given a score of implementation from 0 to 100. The four areas surveyed in the IWMR country survey are:

  1. Enabling environment: this includes the policies, laws, plans and strategies which create the ‘enabling environment’ for IWRM.
  2. Institutions and participation: includes the range and roles of political, social, economic and administrative institutions that help to support the implementation of IWRM.
  3. Management Instruments: The tools and activities that enable decision-makers and users to make rational and informed choices between alternative actions.
  4. Financing: Budgeting and financing made available and used for water resources development and management from various sources.

Out of the 186 countries surveyed the average country score increased from 53 in 2017 to 57 in 2020, a growth rate which is insufficient to reach the target of 100 (full implementation) by 2030.

A closer look at the share of countries in each of the IWRM levels reveals that only 5% of countries are at the 'Very high level' of implementation (95-100), which is the 2030 target. In Central and Southern Asia, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 8 out of 10 countries are at a 'Medium-low' level or lower.

Water cooperation in transboundary basin areas

Water cooperation between countries is crucial for the sustainable management of transboundary basin areas. According to UN Water, 153
countries share transboundary waters, covering 60 per cent of the world’s flow of freshwater.

Data from 2020 shows that globally 58% of total transboundary basin areas were covered by an operational arrangement for water cooperation, almost unchanged from 59% in 2017. There is no set target for 2030, as the target wording is to implement IWRM 'through transboundary cooperation as appropriate'.

Target 6.6

By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes


6.6.1Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time

This indicator is measured through 22 data series on freshwater ecosystems, covering permanent water, seasonal water, reservoirs, wetlands, mangroves as well as water quality. Satellite images are used for several of the data series to calculate changes over time. Given the magnitude of data series available, no single data series is presented here, but rather a summary of the main findings from the latest UN progress report on this indicator:

  • Increasing surface water fluctuations are causing flooding and draught, with one-fifth of the world's rivers basins experiencing high, and above natural, variations in surface water in the last five years.
  • Over 80% of the world's wetlands are estimated to have been lost over since the pre-industrial era. Mangrove areas are estimated to have declined by over 4% since 1996.
  • Almost a quarter of lakes sampled around the world recorded high to extreme turbidity, which can indicate water pollution.

Target 6.a

By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies


6.a.1Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan

While the target is to expand international cooperation and capacity building on water and sanitation, there is no set target for 2030 for this indicator. The chart below shows the evolution of official development assistance (ODA) over time.

While ODA to water and sanitation has increased since 2005, it has gone down over the last two years. As highlighted in the UN SDG 2022 status report, it is likely that the drop in ODA from 2019 to 2020 can be attributed to the COVID pandemic and its impact on water and sanitation related-projects.

Target 6.b

Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


6.a.1Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

The latest data from 2019 shows that around 7 out of 10 countries have procedures for user and community participation in water planning programmes. Yet, just 3 of 10 countries have a high level of actual participation in such programmes. Such participation is seen as crucial to ensure that user and community needs are met.

About the data

The data presented on global and regional trends are from the UN SDG Global Database.


  • First release November 2022

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