Safe, affordable, and accessible water and sanitation are prerequisites for people to live healthy, dignified, and productive lives. In 2010, the United Nations formally recognized the right of all human beings to have sufficient, safe, affordable, and accessible water and sanitation. But today, 2.1 billion people still lack safe drinking water and 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services.

The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a spotlight on the weaknesses of social, economic, and health safety nets we’ve long taken for granted, including our water system. Hand washing is one of the most important actions we can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but more than three billion people – over 40% of the global population – do not have reliable access to safe water and soap in their homes.

The Pacific Institute focuses on expanding universal access to water and sanitation, highlighting populations in the United States and abroad who lack these basic services. In the United States, our work has focused on underserved populations in California. Internationally, we work with the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate and with international non-governmental groups to tackle these needs. As Co-Secretariat of the CEO Water Mandate, we provide a platform for businesses to support hygiene and sanitation services in their supply chains and in the communities they operate in, towards the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 — universal access to these basic needs by 2030.

Assessing Water Affordability: A Pilot Study in Two Regions of California

Published: August 2013


A pilot study in California showed that many households, even within affluent communities, routinely spent over the affordability threshold of two percent of their household income on their water bill. The number of water systems with “unaffordable” rates varied by region and measure used, with important implications for policymakers.

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Climate-Equitable Water

Published: September 2019


The failure to meet basic needs for safe water and sanitation worldwide is one of the great tragedies of our age, with billions of people paying the price in illness and poverty.

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Exploring the Business Case for Corporate Action on Sanitation

Published: September 2014


As society seeks to meet demands for goods and services for a growing population, it is important to improve understanding of the fundamental science of the hydrological cycle, its links with related global processes, and the role it plays in ecological and societal well-being.

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