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The Link Between Water and Poverty

By Lucy Clarke · July 11, 2022

Clean water and poverty are intricately linked. Providing clean water is one of the best methods to lift thousands out of poverty. With clean water, you can stay healthy, go to school, go to work and safely grow crops, too.  

The 2.2 billion people across the world who do not have access to clean water cannot enjoy any of these things that we typically take for granted.

9.2% of the world’s population live in poverty, and many of them do not have access to clean water. 

But you can be part of the solution too. By using Elliot for Water to browse the web, you’ll help communities gain access to clean water and you’ll raise them out of poverty at the same time.  

What is poverty?

The international poverty line is defined as a daily income under $1.90 per day, but living in poverty is so much more than just the lack of money. 

Poverty means that people go without the most basic necessities such as food, shelter, education and clean water.

If they get sick, there is no money for healthcare. Poverty is living in instability and forces people to live one day at a time. Poverty keeps communities powerless. 

Who lives in poverty?

Over 689 million people live in extreme poverty, and 663 million people do not have access to safe, clean, drinkable water. 

Children and young people make up two thirds of the global population living in poverty, and in most regions women also represent a majority too. 

The situation is improving  - since 2015 52 million fewer people are now living in poverty. However, this is a delicate situation  that could be reversed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

It’s estimated due to the effects of the pandemic 88-115 million people could be plunged into poverty.  

What is the relationship between poverty and water scarcity?


Without safe, clean water, a community is locked into poverty. There is no way to escape poverty without access to clean water. 

In fact in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, almost all of the seventeen pledges require clean water to occur. The UN’s SDGs are a list of pledges that aims to achieve a better future for all by 2030. 

Poverty and clean water affects so many aspects of life for people across the world. 

How can clean water improve agriculture?

Over 84% of those who don’t have access to clean water live in rural areas. They have to rely on agriculture for their nutrition. If they have access to clean water, they can use clean water to irrigate their crops - and their crops aren’t watered with contaminated water. 

When communities have access to food that hasn’t been contaminated by dirty water, those in the community can lead healthier lives.

Nutritious and safe food allows people to grow stronger and healthier. Healthy individuals have more energy to work and to go to school and are less likely to get sick.

How can clean water improve physical health?

Dirty water can carry many diseases and parasites, and in fact, in developing countries, 80% of illnesses are directly linked to using contaminated water. 

Proper handwashing can kill off many viruses and bacteria that live on the skin’s surface, so it’s vital to not only provide communities with clean water but also teach hygiene too. 

Every twenty-one seconds, a child under five dies of an illness that’s directly related to drinking dirty water. If the family’s primary breadwinner dies from a deadly waterborne disease, the family will be plunged deeper into poverty. 

Safe water can prevent these deaths, and it can also reduce the physical strain of lugging litres of water for miles every day. Many women must do this in many developing countries, and it causes back, knee and neck pain. 

How can clean water improve education?


Because women and girls often have to spend most of their time carrying water for miles just so their family doesn’t die of thirst, their education is often neglected. 

Access to water will allow girls to stay in education longer and they will be able to gain skills they can use in the workplace, which will lift them further out of poverty. 

How does dirty water play a factor in conflict?

Conflict is one of the biggest causes of poverty as families are displaced and governments that could provide support break down. Conflict can create and exacerbate poverty, and lack of water can be one of the drivers of conflict. 

Poor water security can affect communities’ trust in the government, especially if the water supply is mis-managed due to corruption. On a smaller scale, this can also lead to water disputes between other people and communities as well.  

Conflict can also make water security worse, and in some cases water can be used as a weapon. It can be contaminated, controlled or blocked to put pressure on the civilian population. 

How does dirty water affect gender equality?

Women and girls are often the ones who must go and collect water. This often involves carrying incredibly heavy containers of dirty water to where they live. They often walk for hours just to collect water. 

Women and girls also have a greater need for water during pregnancy or menstruation. Without water, women and girls cannot participate fully in society. They cannot go to school or work - and much of their valuable time is spent collecting water. 

Additionally, the lack of safe sanitation facilities also creates an environment where girls and women are more at risk of gender based violence.  

How can Elliot for Water help alleviate poverty and the water crisis?

Elliot for Water’s browser extension can help communities gain access to clean water and sanitation. This will allow communities to lift themselves out of poverty. 

We use 60% of our profits to finance clean water projects in the countries that need it most. By 2025, we want to provide clean drinking water to 1 million people. You’re just one click away from changing lives.