Urban Areas Lacking Access To Improved Water Sources Worldwide

Residents of Gaza and other Palestinian cities often go without clean water and modern plumbing.
Residents of Gaza and other Palestinian cities often go without clean water and modern plumbing.

Certain urban areas of the world are lacking access to improved water sources. The exploding urban population has brought unprecedented consequences which have led to a scramble for the few water sources in towns and cities. The pressure and lack is being felt more dearly in some areas of the world where less than 80% of urban dwellers have access to improved water sources. This poses two great dangers to the dwellers. One is the outbreak of water-borne and related diseases such as malaria, and the other is disasters such as floods and droughts.

In 2010, around 96% of the global urban population had access to clean drinking water or improved water source (piped water, public taps, wells or boreholes, protected springs and rain water collection). However, in certain countries, water access and infrastructure is still a work in progress. A huge number of urban people still cannot access clean water.


In Palestine, only 51% of the urban population is guaranteed of safe water. Palestinian territories are characterized by acute water shortage which are under heavy political control. The water resources are controlled by Israel and subject to provisions in Oslo II Accord. Additionally, there are few water treatment plants which do not have the capacity to treat all the wastewater. In recent times, the Gaza war has caused severe damage to water infrastructure and water pollution in the Gaza strip.


The situation of clean water access in Mauritanian towns is dire. Clean water is accessible to 58% of the urban population. Significant improvements on sanitation and water access have taken place since the 1990s. But still, there are numerous challenges preventing everything from taking off. First, the institutions in charge of the sector are not efficient. The government also does not provide enough financing for the development of a better water infrastructure in the country.


Haiti experiences several challenges when it comes to water access and infrastructure. Around 85% of the urban population has access to improved water sources, while only 24% have access to a modern sanitation facility. These are extremely low figures considering the water resource potential in Haiti. Clean water sources are located in tough terrain such as mountains and coastal areas where it is difficult to access or build infrastructure. Soil erosion and deforestation have contributed to the reduced quality of water.


Mongolia experiences a high internal migration from rural to urban areas. The migrant population has poor access to clean water. Only 66% of urban dwellers have access to improved water sources.

Other countries with limited supplies of clean water and modern plumbing in their urban areas include South Sudan, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Angola and Afghanistan.

Nationwide Interventions

Governments in these countries, alongside nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), have come together with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help improve the water situation in urban areas. Their main challenge is to keep up with the pace of urbanization and the growing population.

United Nations initiatives have brought together experts, local government officials, media specialists, key water operators and political representatives of cities and stakeholder groups to discuss the issues and challenges facing water access in urban areas. Practical ways have been proposed in order to turn around the situation and enable thousands of people to access improved water sources.

Urban Areas Lacking Access To Improved Water Sources Worldwide

RankCountry% of Urban Population With Access To Improved Water Sources
5South Sudan67%
7Equatorial Guinea73%

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