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Future of Water 2021

The forgotten communities struggling to access safe water

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Giulio Fornasar

Neil Jeffery

Chief Executive, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP)

Many low-income residents in cities across the world do not have access to a basic water service. Supporting utilities to improve water coverage is vital in ensuring that no one is left behind. 

People need water to live, work and prosper; it is fundamental to our very existence.  

Access to clean water improves health and reduces illness from disease. It helps children attend school regularly, giving them a better chance of a good education. It eases the burden on women and girls to collect water, giving them time to engage in other socio-economic activities. 

Considering its importance, it is shocking that nearly 900 million people still lack access to a basic water service.  

With 68% of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050, how do we ensure equitable service provision for all residents?  

Eunice Njeri lives in Kihoto, one of the biggest low-income areas in Naivasha, Kenya.

Clean and safe drinking water in Kihoto has been a scarce commodity. My husband and I managed to dig-up a shallow well years ago that helped cater for our water needs. However, this is not water we can easily consume.

Eunice Njeri – Kihoto, Naivasha, Kenya

Helping utilities reach those most in need  

Publicly owned service providers or utilities are responsible for the vast majority of water service provision in cities globally. However, they struggle to reach the poorest.  

This may be due to lack of sources of investment, high water losses in their network and insufficient experience in providing services that are suitable for residents living in informal settlements. 

In every city where WSUP works, we place a high priority on working alongside utilities, helping them build their capacity to improve operations, so they are better able to serve the needs of low-income residents.  

Thanks to an improved connection through the utility’s network, Eunice is now able to access clean water. “The new connection was very affordable and the fact that I have water running in the tap every day is more than a relief to me!” 

Increasing the capacity of utilities is one of the most effective ways in which we can move towards achieving universal water coverage. 


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