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How sustainable water resources impact the other Sustainable Development Goals

Clean water and sanitation is the sixth of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. While our industry can directly help achieve seven of the Goals, the interconnectedness of the Goals means that progress on one usually translates as progress on some or all of the others.

Goal 3. Good health and wellbeing

Goal 3. Good health and well-being

While clean water and sanitation are essential to health and well-being, our vision takes the benefits even further.

Driving down carbon emissions and a move towards nature-based solutions leads to cleaner air — with clear benefits to human health — and thriving green spaces with greater biodiversity, benefiting mental health and well-being. Better green spaces encourage exercise and recreation, while cleaner waterways allow for more water sports. Longer-term health benefits are provided by tackling contaminants in water supply. Not only does this prevent the accumulation of plastics and chemicals in the food chain, it aids the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Goal 7. Affordable and clean energy

Goal 7. Affordable and clean energy

Development of onsite renewable energy reduces the water sector’s dependence on grid energy.

Government investment enables water providers to develop onsite biogas and hydrogen power generation, which supports energy needs and provides clean fuel for vehicles. Unused renewable energy is provided to the grid, aiding national decarbonization efforts.

This is the future: Affordable and clean energy

Goal 8. Decent work and economic growth

Goal 8. Decent work and economic growth

Our vision has the potential to boost job creation — both within the water sector and in other sectors — in fields as diverse as digital systems and smart infrastructure, renewable energy, carbon management, nature-based solutions, and electric vehicles.

A richer environment leads to more jobs in tourism, which in turn supports employment in maintaining and developing the natural environment. Cleaner air and waterways and improved biodiversity have a positive impact on health and well-being, with improved productivity and fewer working days lost to illness.

Goal 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Goal 9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure

A systems approach to water takes into account how all users — especially water-intensive stakeholders such as energy, industry, and farming — impact (and are impacted by) water and wastewater services.

This enables interventions to be appraised for how they affect other stakeholders, supporting an integrated approach that supports the needs of industry. Government investment — to develop the technology and infrastructure needed to make the most of the water sector’s biogas and hydrogen power potential — will drive innovation, supporting other parts of the economy on their decarbonization journeys.

Goal 12. Responsible consumption and production

Goal 12. Responsible consumption and production

Digital transformation reduces and can even eliminate the need for resource-intensive, new-build solutions.

This is complemented by a focus on nature-based solutions where possible, driving down the use of new materials and consequent emissions. By embracing the circular economy, the water sector can provide chemicals for farming and industry, materials for construction, and energy to the rest of the economy.

Goal 13. Climate action

Goal 13. Climate action

Achieving carbon net-zero is core to meeting national carbon reduction targets and helping to bring down the carbon footprint of the most water-intensive industries.

The development of onsite renewables means unused clean energy can be provided to the grid, helping to decarbonize the energy sector. Nature-based solutions eliminate the emissions of traditional infrastructure solutions while boosting green spaces that support carbon sequestration. Through all these actions, the water sector can set a clear example to other sectors of what is achievable with an ambitious carbon reduction strategy.

This is the future: Climate action.

Goal 14. Life below water

Goal 14. Life below water

Tightening wastewater discharge across all sectors combined with more nature-based solutions leads to cleaner rivers, lakes, and coastal environments.

This supports water-based biodiversity and creates a positive feedback loop as cleaner water across the catchment means less processing is needed to clean it — so less chemicals end up as waste in the environment. Tackling contaminants will limit the volume of plastics and chemicals entering the seas, supporting marine life and helping to prevent the accumulation of impurities in the food chain.

This is the future: Water and sanitation.

Goal 15. Life on land

Goal 15. Life on land

Driving down carbon emissions leads to cleaner air, which benefits all animals and plant life.

This is complemented by a move towards upcycling, which limits the use of natural resources and associated emissions. Natural solutions not only reduce the negative environmental impact of physical infrastructure solutions — they also support increased biodiversity and help to improve air quality.

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