Safe drinking water is essential for human life.

Yet a staggering number of people must survive each and every day with poor quality drinking water.

Across the world one person in six—over 1.1 billion people—lives without access to safe drinking water.

How can this be?

On a planet covered with water why do so many people lack access to safe water?

Part of the problem lies within nature itself.

Most of the Earth’s water is too salty to drink.

What is drinkable may arrive in a few short months of the year if it arrives at all.

Nature distributes freshwater unevenly giving some parts of the world plenty of water, while others receive little or none.

But the supply of water is only part of the problem.

A large percentage of water is contaminated and unsafe for human consumption.

Some of this contamination is natural, such as high levels of arsenic and fluoride.

Still more is contaminated by waste from humans, animals, agriculture, and industry.

Contaminated water isn’t just dirty; it can also be deadly.

Water related diseases like cholera kill an average of 5,000 children every day—over 200 children every hour.

Millions more people live with chronic illness brought on by drinking contaminated water.

A third part of the problem is poor infrastructure for moving water from its source to people’s homes.

In some communities, leaky pipes in old or damaged systems let precious water spill out unused.

Across the globe, millions of women and girls spend hours each day collecting water for their households at the expense of education and other opportunities.

This already-enormous problem is becoming even more challenging.

The world’s population is expected to rise by 3 billion people or more over the next 50 to 75 years.

Most of that growth will occur in developing nations, especially in growing cities across Asia and Africa, where water resources are already scarce.

Although the situation appears insurmountable, solutions are possible and progress is being made.

Watersheds can be managed to boost the amount of water available.

Techniques like collecting and storing water, and balancing the use of surface water with groundwater can be used in places where water is scarce.

These techniques help to provide a more secure supply of water to those who would otherwise be at the mercy of unreliable rivers and rainfall.

Sometimes no safe water can be found, but even contaminated water can be purified using a combination of treatment technologies.

Improved distribution systems can move clean water from distant sources to the people who need it reducing the burdens of hand gathering water from long distances.

By focusing on water sources, treatment, and distribution solutions—we can make an immediate impact.

Though the challenges are real, the solutions are available.