The Human Right to Water & Sanitation

Learn more about the United Nation's commitment to providing clean water and sanitation for ALL people in the world.

Did you know that in 2010, the United Nations explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation?

In other words, the UN acknowledges that clean drinking water and proper sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. They've called upon nations and international organizations to provide financial resources and technology to assist countries, in particular developing countries, provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. As the UN identifies, access to water is connected to other important issues: gender equality, education, global health.

But what does the human right to clean water and healthy sanitation look like? It means that water and sanitation are:

  • Sufficient: There must be a sufficient water supply for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of cloths, and personal and household hygiene. The World Health Organization says that 50-100 liters of water per person per day are needed to ensure enough water for daily use.
  • Safe: The water used for personal and domestic use must be clean and safe, free of harmful organisms, and without chemical and hazardous substances that threaten a person’s health.
  • Acceptable: Water and water facilities must be culturally sensitive and aware of gender, lifecycle, and privacy requirements. The water must also be an acceptable color, odor, and taste for personal and domestic use.
  • Physically Accessible: Clean water and sanitation must be within the immediate vicinity of the household, educational institution, workplace, or health institution. The time a person takes to collect the water should not exceed 30 minutes.
  • Affordable: Water, and water facilities and services, must be affordable for all. According to the United Nations Development Program, water costs should not exceed 3% of household income.

With these values as a guide, the UN challenges nations, organizations, and individuals to help provide the human right to water and sanitation for ALL people around the world. Will you help?

To learn more, check out the UN Website.

What You Do Matters

What would you like to do next with Water as Human Right?

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

A visual reflection on how water connects to living a full, human life.

Extra wide extra wide drc girls walk numerous miles to fetch water and carry heavy loads during school hours

If you would like, continue to reflect on the pictures

  • How do these pictures show the necessity for water in living a full life?
  • Where in the photos do you see yourself?
  • In what ways do the pictures bring a sense of connection between you and the people in the pictures?
  • How are their lives like yours?

Talk about it with others.


(Photos courtesy of and copyright © UMCOR / General Board of Global Ministries.)

What You Do Matters

What would you like to do next with Water as Human Right?

Take Action


Volunteer to help.

You may feel inspired to step right out of the door and go volunteer with a project working on water and sanitation issues.  Here are a couple of organizations that can help you plug in.

UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) -- Volunteer opportunities as individuals or teams both in the United States and around the world. Get involved.

SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology) -- A nonprofit Christian organization, that provides training in community development in hard places in our world. Get involved.

ASP (Appalachia Service Project) -- Brings thousands of volunteers from around the country to rural Central Appalachia to repair homes for low-income families. Get involved.

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