Reflection: Clean Drinking Water

clean drinking water

The headlines from Flint, Michigan and the First Nations communities across Canada had me wondering what was being done to improve the quality of water here and across the globe. This is my initial foray into understanding what’s happening. (Yes, I’m late to the game.)

The U.N. General Assembly declared in 2010 that “clean water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights” and recognized clean drinking water as a fundamental human right []. There has been improvement in the access to clean drinking water since 1990. According to the World Health Organization, 91% of the world in 2015 had access to an “improved drinking water source” versus 76% in 1990.

That’s an achievement that we should get excited about. As the WHO notes though, “improved” doesn’t necessarily mean “safe.” How do we move from improved to safe and what’s happening to the nearly 700 million people still without access to clean water?

Here is a sample of countries and communities who have significant populations without access to clean drinking water:


Every nation on the continent has a community that struggles. Nigeria, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have the largest populations without access, according to this National Geographic map.

The Caribbean, Central and South America

Columbia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Haiti have nearly 22 million citizens without access to clean water. 27 other countries in the Caribbean, Central, and South America have significant populations without access.


India, Indonesia and China

North America

The U.S. has nearly 3 million citizens without safe drinking water. These are just two of the communities who have been in the news recently:

Flint, MI

St. Joseph, LA

Canada has under 100,000 citizens without safe drinking water; however, many of these citizens live in First Nations communities that have been under boil-water advisories for decades. Decades.

First Nations communities across Canada


Australia and New Zealand have access to clean drinking water. The small Pacific islands northeast of Australia struggle.


Even Europe has communities without access, albeit in numbers on a much smaller scale than Africa or Asia. Eastern Europe suffers the most with over 3 million citizens lacking access to clean drinking water [].


The World Health Organization defines access to clean drinking water as a source 1,000 meters or less from home and takes less than 30 minutes to collect. There are also guidelines on what qualifies as safe, affordable, and sufficient.


Organizations Involved in Solving the Water Problem:

I will post more as I research and learn more about what’s being done and where we can help. In the meantime, visit some of the organizations working to end the water crisis across the globe:

World Health Organization

United Nations




Published by Kate Monahan

Travel happy. Outdoors professional. Writer. Photographer. Educator.

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