When communities have safe water, families are strong, people can work, and there’s social, economic, and national stability. If we want to have a peaceful world, clean water is the basis of that – it’s fundamental.


1.8 BILLION PEOPLE LACK ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER

We’ve seen with own eyes what it means to be “without”

As combat soldiers fighting in wars over the past decade, VWO volunteers have had the opportunity to interact, help, and develop friendships with people all over the world. We’ve also seen first hand the devastating consequences that result when communities are forced to consume untreated water. The images of sick children and dire sanitary conditions have forever been burned into our minds.


The causes of the world water crisis are complex 

When we are talking about regions suffering from water stress or water crisis, no one community is affected the same way as another. In some places water is plentiful, but due to poor infrastructure or institutions, it goes untreated and flows back into the community water source. In other places, the scarcity of water requires people – almost always women and children – to walk incredibly far distances to carry water back home.

Compounding the issue is the effect of climate change, which causes extremes in weather that affects water supply. And an increasing global population puts increasing demand on our finite fresh water resources. The World Economic Forum considers the world water crisis one of the top 5 global risks.

INADEQUATE WATER TREATMENT AND SANITATION
  • 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water that is fecally-contaminated 
  • 2.4 billion people do not have access to a toilet
  • Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused
  • In low-income countries, only 8% of industrial and municipal wastewater undergoes treatment of any kind

CLIMATE CHANGE
  • As weather extremes increase, affected communities face greater threats from droughts and floods
  • Water is predicted to become scarce in regions where it is now abundant, and water scarcity will greatly worsen in currently affected regions
  • By 2025, two-thirds of the world population will be under water stress

INCREASING DEMAND 
  • Due to a rapidly growing population, global demand for water is expected to increase by 50% by 2030
  • By 2050, close to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, putting approximately 5 times the demand on urban infrastructure and resources 

Without clean water, societies cannot thrive and people cannot realize their potential 

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council recognized access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right. As part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 6 aims to “by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.”

illness and death 
  • Water-related diseases affect more than 1.5 billion people every year
  • 160 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition linked to water and sanitation
  • Every 90 seconds a child dies from water-related disease
  • Contaminated water leads to diseases that causes over 3.4 million deaths a year – making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world

POOR EDUCATION
  • Children around the world miss 443 million days of school a year because of water-borne illness
  • Children – often girls – spend up to 6 hours each day collecting water
  • 1/3 of all schools lack access to clean water and sanitation; without water, students become dehydrated and mentally incapable of achieving well

POOR ECONOMY
  • $260 billion is lost globally each year due to lack of safe water and sanitation
  • Time spent gathering water around the world translates to $24 billion in lost economic benefits each year
  • Every day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed collecting water

 

RISK OF CONFLICT AND MIGRATION
  • The U.S. military calls climate change “an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water”
  • A 2012 U.S. Intelligence Assessment concluded that water-driven destabilization could lead to state failure, negative impacts on food production, and the risk that terrorists might weaponize water

 


HOW ENVIRONMENTAL INSTABILITY CAN LEAD TO CONFLICT

The current Syrian Civil War provides an important case study of what can happen to a society under severe water stress. Between 2007 and 2010, Syria experienced one of the worst droughts on record, which decimated rural communities and drove hundreds of thousands of people off their land and into Syria’s cities. The demand and competition for resources like water began to create tensions between groups that had otherwise lived harmoniously together. When social uprising began in 2011, Syria was therefore an especially vulnerable society. The effects of the drought combined with geopolitical instability created the conditions for violence. Once conflict began, warring factions who were able to pay their soldiers found willing recruits from those regions most affected by drought. Since the onset of the civil war, some factions have even “weaponized” water, turning it into an instrument of war and alternatively flooding areas or deliberately withholding water in order to punish civilians.


Veterans Without Orders provides solutions that empowers families who need safe drinking water. Instead of being dependent on outside sources – like government or industry – we put clean water directly in the hands of those who need it the most.