The aim of UN SDG 6 is to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Worldwide, one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water, two out of five people do not have a basic hand-washing facility with soap and water, and more than 673 million people still practice open defecation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical importance of sanitation, hygiene, and adequate access to clean water for preventing and containing diseases. According to the World Health Organization, handwashing is one of the most effective actions you can take to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus. Yet billions of people still lack safe water sanitation, and funding is inadequate.
According to United Nations, the targets for this goal are:
6.1 By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
6.2 By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
6.3 By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
6.4 By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
6.5 By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
6.6 By 2030, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
6.A By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
6.B Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management
Canada has about 20% of the planet's freshwater resources and 7% of the world's renewable fresh water. In regards to the UN SDG Goal 6, the Canadian government has a list of objectives it seeks to achieve by 2030, this includes:
Achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
Achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all
Improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials
Substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors
implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
Protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
The Government of Canada works with provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, academics and stakeholders to reduce water pollution and ensure ecosystem health. It ensures its involvement through various Acts, Treaties and Agreements such as the Canada Water Act, The Boundary Waters Treaty (Canada-U.S. boundary waters), The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Columbia River Treaty , among others. Indigenous peoples have freshwater-related rights under many historic and modern treaties and self-government agreements. They are also involved in transboundary freshwater management, including through some water management boards.
Water scarcity, pollution, climate change, and other problematic global water trends pose major challenges to businesses now more than ever. Companies need to assess their water performance in order to address these risks and ultimately stay in business. According to Mr Jason Morrison, Head & CEO of Water Mandate, water-related business risks are generally placed in three broad categories:
Physical risk –Relates to water quantity (scarcity and flooding) and water quality that is unfit for use (pollution)
Reputational risk –Relates to the impact on a company’s brand and can influence customer purchasing decisions
Regulatory risk – Relates to the capacity of the government to manage water effectively and sustainability
As a business, you can get involved by committing to become a UN Global Compact participant. Initiatives by organizations such as CEO Water Mandate, WWF Water Stewardship and WaterAid can be contacted by businesses to ensure their participation in the sustainable transformation of thousands of lives.