Infographic: Which countries have the safest drinking water? | New infographics

One in four people does not have access to drinking water. In low-income countries, unsafe water is responsible for six out of every 100 deaths.

People all over the world observe March 22 as World Water Day – designated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the two billion people who do not have access to safe drinking water. The theme this year is “Groundwater: making the invisible visible”.

Groundwater is the water that lies below the Earth’s surface and is the largest source of fresh water on earth.

Safe and readily available water is important for public health. Polluted water is linked to the transmission of many diseases, including cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and poliomyelitis.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diarrheal diseases led to the death of around 1.5 million people in 2019, making it the eighth leading cause of death worldwide, especially among groups with low income.

Higher death rates in low-income countries

Worldwide, at least two billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces.

In 2019, the share of annual deaths attributed to unsafe water worldwide ranged from 10.1% in Chad – around 100 in 1,000 – to around 0.3% on average in the Americas to less than 0.02% across most of Europe, according to the Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network.

In low-income countries, unsafe water sources kill six out of every 100 people.

Interactive - Water pollution - Risk of death from unclean water

Which countries have the safest drinking water?

In 2020, about three quarters (74%) of the world’s population had access to safe drinking water. One in four people do not have access to a safely managed water source.

In the least developed countries, 22% of health facilities have no water service, 21% have no sanitation service and 22% have no waste management service. Most are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ten countries – eight in Africa and two in Asia – have less than 20% of the population with access to safely managed drinking water. The lowest percentages are Chad (5.6%), Central African Republic (6.2%), Sierra Leone (10.6%), Rwanda (12.1%) and Ethiopia (12. 6%).

The countries with 100% access to drinking water are Greece, Iceland, Kuwait, Lichtenstein, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino and Singapore.

Interactive - Water pollution - Which countries have the safest drinking water

How to protect yourself from waterborne diseases

Some key precautions that can be taken to protect you and your family from waterborne illnesses are recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including:

  • Practice good personal hygiene. Be sure to always wash your hands before preparing or eating food and after using the toilet, cleaning a child or handling animals.
  • Maintain and clean water installations. Clean, disinfect and maintain all appliances that use water. Water from private water supplies should be regularly tested twice a year.
  • Drink properly treated water. Treat drinking water before use by boiling it, adding disinfectants or filtering it.
  • Take food safety measures. Eat foods that are well cooked and served very hot, fruits that you can peel yourself, and pasteurized dairy products.

Interactive - Water pollution - How to protect yourself from waterborne diseases

Julio V. Miller