Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Use of improved drinking water sources

Situation and trends

The MDG drinking water target, which calls for halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015, was met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule. While this a tremendous achievement, continued efforts are needed. As of 2012, 748 million people still relied on unimproved water sources (surface water from lakes, rivers, dams, or unprotected dug wells or springs) for their drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene.

The proportion of the world’s population with access to improved drinking water sources increased from 76% to 89% globally between 1990 and 2012, surpassing the MDG target. While coverage is near or above 90% in all developing regions of the world, with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, where the coverage are 64% and 56% respectively, widespread disparities exist between countries and across regions. There are also disparities between urban and rural coverage, where an estimated 96% of the urban population globally used an improved water supply source in 2012, compared to 82% of the rural population. This is much more striking when it comes to piped water on premises, to which 80% of urban dweller have access, as opposed to merely 29% from the rural areas. The disparities are equally striking when it comes to people that remain unserved. 82% of the global population that do not have access to an improved source for drinking water, live in rural areas. 62% of the 2.3 billion people that gained access to improved sources were in urban areas, and more than two thirds of these gained access to piped water on premises that provide the highest level of health and other benefits.

The latest WHO/UNICEF joint monitoring report, mentioned below, also shows striking socio-economic disparities shedding on the poor and disadvantaged groups of people, highlighting the urgency to address this.

More information on drinking-water sources: