Water is the core of sustainable development. It supports all aspects of life on Earth, and access to safe and clean water is a basic human right. But decades of mismanagement and abuse have intensified water stress, threatening the many aspects of life that depend on this crucial resource.

Clean water is essential for human health.


Clean water is essential for human health.

1. We are facing a global water crisis

Water is essential for human well-being, energy and food production, healthy ecosystems, gender equality, poverty alleviation and more.

But we are currently facing a global water crisis. Billions of people around the world still lack access to water. It is estimated that more than 800,000 people die each year from diseases directly attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices.

Demand for this precious resource continues to increase: around four billion people experience severe water shortages for at least one month a year. Because water is so critical to many aspects of life, it is important to ensure its protection and proper management to ensure that everyone has equitable access to this vital resource by 2023.

Drought drastically affects the availability of water for vulnerable communities.


Drought drastically affects the availability of water for vulnerable communities.

2. Water and climate are inextricably linked

From increasing floods, unpredictable rainfall and drought, the effects of climate change on water can be seen and felt at an accelerating rate. These effects threaten sustainable development, biological diversity and people’s access to water and sanitation.

According to the latest The permit for climate services on water report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), water-related hazards have increased at an alarming rate. Since 2000, floods have increased by 134 percent and the duration of droughts has increased by 29 percent.

But water can also be a key solution to climate change. Carbon storage can be improved by protecting environments such as peatlands and wetlands, adopting sustainable agricultural practices can help reduce stress on freshwater supplies, and improved water supply and sanitation infrastructure can ensure that everyone has access to important resources in the future.

Water must be at the center of climate policy and climate measures. Sustainable water management can help build resilience, mitigate the effects of climate change and protect communities and ecosystems. Sustainable, affordable and scalable water solutions must become a priority.

UN Water Conference 2023

United Nations

UN Water Conference 2023

3. Four decades later, bold new commitments are on the table

The UN Water Conference 2023 will be a crucial moment to decide on concerted action to “take action and address the broad challenges of water”, according to Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Secretary-General of the event.

The conference will bring together heads of state and government, ministers and stakeholders across all sectors to achieve internationally agreed goals, including Goal for sustainable development 6 by the United Nations Agenda 2030 for a fairer future; ensure access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene for all.

One of the most important results of the conference will be Water Action Agenda which will capture all water-related voluntary commitments and monitor their progress. The agenda aims to encourage Member States, stakeholders and the private sector to take urgent action to address today’s water challenges.

A woman in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, carries water she bought from a local trader.

© UNICEF/Odlyn Joseph

A woman in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, carries water she bought from a local trader.

4. Focus on five key areas

The conference will feature five “interactive dialogues” to strengthen and accelerate action on key water areas.

The interactive dialogues also support the five principles of SDG 6 Global Acceleration Frameworkan initiative to deliver rapid results to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

The five interactive dialogs are:

  1. Water for health: Access to clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.
  2. Water for sustainable development: Valuing water, the water-energy-food nexus and sustainable economic and urban development.
  3. Water for climate, resilience and the environment: Source of the ocean, biodiversity, climate, resilience and disaster risk reduction.
  4. Water for cooperation: Transboundary and international water cooperation, cross-sectoral cooperation and water over the 2030 agenda.
  5. Water Action Decade: Accelerate implementation of the Decade’s goals, including through the UN Secretary-General’s Action Plan.

Take a closer look at each of the interactive dialogs here.

5. How can you get involved?

Water is a critical issue that affects everyone. As UN member states, governments and stakeholders prepare to make their own water commitments, the UN is calling on everyone to take action of their own. Any action – whether small or large – can help accelerate change and action to achieve the goals and targets of SDG 6.

Here are some simple actions that can be incorporated into daily routines:

  • Take shorter showers and reduce your water waste in your home. With 44 percent of household wastewater not treated safely, taking shorter showers is a great way to save this precious resource. The lazy person’s guide to saving water
  • Participate in cleaning up local rivers, lakes or wetlands. Plant a tree or create your own water garden. These measures can help protect aquatic ecosystems from pollution and reduce the risk of flooding and store water efficiently.
  • Raise awareness of the critical link between toilets, sanitation and menstruation. Break taboos by starting conversations in your local community, school or workplace.

Learn more about the goals and objectives of SDG 6 and continue to advocate for solutions at the local and national level. Support water-related campaigns and find out other ways you can incorporate simple measures that can help protect water resources.