Sustainable Development Goal #6, Clean Water and Sanitation & Project Management

This week’s post focuses on SDG #6 of 17, Clean Water and Sanitation.  It is amazing that 75% of our planet is covered in water yet there are entire countries that have limited access to drinkable clean water.

There are several goals tied to this SDG but first, let me share some startling facts.06-clean-water-and-sanitation

  • 1 in 9 people world wide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water.
  • Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from a water-related disease
  • 4% of the people who don’t have access to improved water, live in rural areas, where they live principally through subsistence agriculture.
  • 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.
  • Nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease.
  • According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of between $3 and $34!

Wow.  Yes.  Wow.

SDG #6 has six targets and two sub targets.  Projects and project management has the ability to positively impact them all! Here they are.

By 2020:

  • Protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

By 2030

  • Achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
  • Achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations 
  • Improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally 
  • Substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity 
  • Implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
  • Expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies 
  • Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management

From a project perspective, there are three key areas to consider. What is your project’s impact on water Quality, Consumption, and Displacement? Our P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management outlines Water impacts as follows:

Water Quality – The impact on water quality that the project and or the project’s product will have on the habitats and species affected (during both the total asset lifecycle).

Water Consumption -The amount of water that will be withdrawn by the project and or project’s product during its life cycle.

Water Displacement– The amount of water that will be displaced from the natural water table as a result of the project or project’s product.

The question, to ask is do you as a PM have policies and procedures in place (governance) to account for water and sanitation?  Does it extend to your distributers and suppliers?

For example: If you do consume water what measures do you take to ensure that only what is required is utilized? Have you ever driven down the street when it is raining and saw an automated sprinkler system on at full tilt and thought “what a waste!”?  It is the little things we do that can add up to make a big difference.  Someone once said that people who think that small things can’t make a big difference  are people who have never spent a night in a tent with a mosquito…

Good Example:

McDIn India, McDonald’s has improved its business practices to prevent ongoing water scarcity.When harvesting rainwater, the restaurants’ direct the water flow into a storm drain. The rainwater then empties into a sedimentation or settling tank and finally into the water table via recharge pits of gravel, sand, and rocks that act as natural filters. McDonald’s India recharges 106,400 of water per year, using about 50 percent of rainwater that falls on the roofs. SRC



AQUASTAT. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Water Use.”
WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2010.” Available at
UNICEF. “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene” Updated May 2010.
United Nations Development Programme. “Human Development Report 2006: Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis.” 2006. Available at
United Nations. Statement by Secretary General Koffi Annan. June 2003.
WHO/UNICEF. “Diarrhoea: Why children are still dying and what can be done.” 2009. available at
World Health Organization. “Costs and benefits of water and sanitation improvements at the global level.”

Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni is a highly respected expert in sustainable project management. He is a graduate of Ball State University and holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment. He has over 25 years of experience in project management, including government, finance, consulting, manufacturing, and education. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and events related to project management and sustainability and has worked in more than 50 countries. In addition to serving as President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the United States and being a member of the Global advisory board, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM (Green Project Management) and a visiting professor at Skema Business School. He is also the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace Initiative and the Anti-Corruption call to action and a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). Dr. Carboni is the creator of the PRiSM™ project delivery methodology and the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management and has written training programs on Green and Sustainable Project Management that are offered in more than 145 countries through professional training providers, business associations, and universities. He is the lead author of the book "Sustainable Project Management."

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