The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.
Sustainable Development Goal 6: ENSURE AVAILABILITY AND SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF WATER AND SANITATION FOR ALL
- 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 and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity.
- Protect and restore water‐related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.
Clean, accessible water is essential for people to live life to the full. In Australia, we are fortunate to have many areas where clean water is accessible, however this is not the case everywhere. According to Robert Docter from the ISJC – “There is enough technology and sufficient water supply to provide the world with clean water. However, economic and environmental factors prevent access to more than one billion people”. Every year, millions of people die from diseases associated with water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation. Illness and spending time collecting water can reduce school attendance for children, and the capacity to work and earn income for adults.
“Around 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated.” We often hear about issues of water and sanitation around the world, but even in Australia this is an issue. The Western Australian government has reported drinking water in some remote communities as “contaminated with uranium, faecal bacteria and nitrates above the recommended levels”. The Australian Trachoma Surveillance Report (2016) states that “Australia is the only high-income country with endemic trachoma”, which is a preventable eye infection that transmits more easily in places with poor water hygiene.  It is most common in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. While the burden of diseases linked to water, sanitation and hygiene issues is low, it is persistent and thus is an issue we need to address.
Through water sustainability, it is possible to better manage production of food and energy, preserve water ecosystems, take action on climate change, and contribute to work and economic growth. The World Health Organisation has estimated that access to clean, safe water and sanitation could prevent 10% of the total burden of disease globally.
The Bible emphasises the necessity of water for life. Isaiah 12:3 says ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ It is our hope that all people who do not yet know the ‘joy’ of clean water receive access to it.
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (Emphasis added). To offer a drink is a gracious act of hospitality. It places the other person ahead of one’s self, and it is a simple and thoughtful expression of love. There are things we can do to contribute to offering even a cup of [clean] water to our neighbours, in Australia and globally, experiencing issues accessing clean water for drinking and sanitation.
What can we do?
- Challenge leaders and government officials to improve sanitation and access to clean water in areas where it is needed globally and within Australia.
- Get involved or donate to one of the many organisations who have programs that aim to improve water and sanitation all over the world. The Salvation Army’s International Development Department has a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health) program which is active in various developing nations and can be supported here. Some of The Salvation Army’s ‘Salvos Just Gifts’ help improve access to clean water and sanitation and make a valuable contribution to the communities to which they are gifted.
- Commit this SDG to prayer both individually and as a Corps
– Thank God for the life giving water Jesus freely gives.
– Pray for the ongoing work of water and sanitation programs that bring growth and stability, and ensure safety, health, development and salvation. Pray that these programs will receive the finances they require.
– Pray for projects in areas of drought, conflict and natural disasters, that they will be able to partner with and support the local community in meeting needs and leading to sustainable development in water and sanitation.
– Pray for those without access to clean water and adequate sanitation, that they may be spiritually and physically replenished.
For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 6, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.
 'Clean Water and Sanitation', Robert Docter in The Salvation Army’s Go and Do Something. https://www.salvationarmy.org/isjc  'Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all', UN Sustainable Development Goals. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/water-and-sanitation/  'Water and Sanitation', World Vision, 2015. https://www.worldvision.com.au/global-issues/work-we-do/water-sanitation  'Clean Water and Sanitation: Why it matters', UN SDGs. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment  'Its a fallacy that all Australians have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene', Nina Lansbury Hall, Cindy Shannon & Paul Jagals, 2016. https://theconversation.com/  'Australian Trachoma Surveillance Report 2016', The Kirby Institute UNSW. http://www.health.gov.au/  'Clean Water and Sanitation: Why it matters', UN SDGs.  'Safer Water, Better Health', World Health Organisation, 2008.  Matthew 10:42