Q6 – Safe water at home

This question was asked to the public in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the UK in the Sustainable Development Misconception Study 2020

In December 2020 Gapminder launches a brand new service for upgrading your worldview, where you will be able to take this (and many other) tests and become certified gapm.io/upgrader


How many people in the world have access to safe drinking water in their home or close by?

a) Around 30%

b) Around 50%

c) Around 70%

Correct answer

Around 70% of all people have easy access to safe drinking water.

The majority have water

Most people overestimate how many lack access to safe water. It’s probably because they don’t want to trivialize the suffering of all the thirsty people in the world. Water is one of the most basic human needs, and today 70% of the world population people have it in their home or close by. Another 20% of humanity have access to a well or a tap within a 15 minute walk from their home. Which means that 90% of humanity have some access to safe drinking water and across the world the trends are generally rising. 

But many people are still killed by preventable infectious diseases and parasites from contaminated drinking water. In some places the groundwater level is declining and new solutions are needed to solve this, but in most places no new inventions are needed. The old proven solutions would work just fine: Local governments need to manage local water resources properly by building more pumps and connecting more pipes.

Data sources

Measuring water quality is not easy and deciding what is “safe” is even harder. The definition of “safely managed water” used by UNICEF and WHO[1] is: “Drinking water from an improved water source which is located on premises, available when needed and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination”. It must also be from a construction that has potential to deliver safe water (i.e. piped water, boreholes or tubewells, protected dug wells, protected springs, rainwater, and packaged or delivered water). Bottled water is not counted since it might not be available when needed. Read more about different levels of quality and rural and urban differences in all countries on their website WASH [2].

Source 1 – JMP Global database of WASH data, managed by the WHO and Unicef.

Source 2 – WASH Data, definitions and estimation methods