We Need Clean Water to Improve Hygiene, Health, and Reduce Poverty

By Jenny Noonan

March 22, 2016

When we think of the importance of clean water we usually think of washing our hands to protect against illness, a clean supply for drinking, and toilets to prevent contamination. That’s for good reason: these needs are critical! In fact, ensuring the availability of water and sanitation for everyone is global goal #6.

Picture of a boy carrying water

A young boy carries water home for his family in a plastic container. Photograph by UN Photo/Tim McKulka

Water is known as the essential building block of life. It sustains us when we’re thirsty, and it’s essential to our health. But today, World Water Day, we’re focusing on a different aspect of the importance of clean water: its role in creating and supporting good quality jobs.

About 1.5 billion people (half the world’s workers) work in water-related fields; nearly all jobs—no matter the field—directly depend on water. Despite this clear link between water and work, millions of people are not recognized or protected by basic labor rights. For example, many girls walk hours each day to collect water for their families. Though this is work, it’s not recognized as a job and isn’t paid. Furthermore, if the family had easier access to, or delivery of clean water, the girl who would normally work to collect it could spend those hours in school.

Paloma Durán, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund explains, “Water is as essential to poverty alleviation and livelihoods as it is to human dignity and health. We are working to empower vulnerable people, especially women and girls, in the Philippines through equitable access to safe water systems.”

This short video shows the importance of water in jobs around the world:

Water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development. Get involved today to make a difference for those who need help with water-related issues.

Take Action Challenge

Get involved on World Water Day online by using the hashtags #WaterIsWork and #WorldWaterDay.


Also, take part in UNICEF’s World Water Day project on Instagram. To bring attention to the link between climate change, water, and children, a ‘digital chain’ will be formed on UNICEF’s Instagram feed (@unicef). Take a photo of yourself with your arms outstretched to the edge of the frame, then post on Instagram with your personal message about water and climate change with the hashtag #ClimateChain. The photos will be linked together and the digital chain will be presented at the signing of the Paris Declaration on April 22.

Lead photo of the Bangladesh military suppying water to residents in Old Dhaka. Photograph by Kibae Park/Sipa Press

Share this post!