Global Health Observatory (GHO) data

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. 2.6 billion gained access to improved sources of drinking water during this period. While this a tremendous achievement, efforts should continue to give access to remaining 663 million people who still relies 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 91% globally between 1990 and 2015, 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 68% 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 2015, compared to 84% of the rural population. This is much more striking when it comes to piped water on premises, to which 79% of urban dweller have access, as opposed to merely 33% from the rural areas. The disparities are equally striking when it comes to people that remain unserved. Eight out of ten people that do not have access to an improved source for drinking water, live in rural areas. During 1990-2015, of the 2.6 billion people that gained access to improved sources, 3.1 billion were in access to piped water on premises that provide the highest level of health and other benefits. Urban share of these gains were 63% and 70% respectively.