Why Water Justice Matters


We are experiencing a global water crisis. Though 70% of our planet is covered in water, only an estimated 3% of it is drinkable for humans. This harsh reality, in tandem with industrialization, the privatization of water resources, and governmental control, has created water scarcity for a substantial portion of the global population. Clean water shortages affect poor communities and communities of color more often than others, which makes this crisis an economic one. However, this form of violence affects everyone, as the lack of access to clean water can destabilize communities and create conflict between territories with more resources. In this spotlight on the crisis, the reader will learn about the statistics behind the global water crisis and the ways that organizations (like Charity: Water) are working to bring an end to the crisis.

According to one statistic, around 1 billion people lack access to clean water, which is about 1 in 10 people worldwide. There is a major issue of access to clean water not polluted by waste, pollution, or other environmental factors. While water covers 70% of the planet, only 3% of that water is fresh water that can be used for drinking, bathing, and cleaning. At the same time, there are millions of species of animals and plants that rely on this same limited supply of fresh water. This means there is a tremendous amount of competition for the same resources through the earth’s ecosystem.

According to UNESCO, there are two to three billion people worldwide who experience water shortages (which is distinctively different than having access to clean water). This also includes a figure of millions of women, and girls, who spend 266 million hours (about 30,000 years) a day to find fresh water. As one can discern, this rate of travel can be tremendously unsafe for women as it can put them in many kinds of dangerous situations.

Around 1 million people (about the population of Delaware) each year die from sanitation and hygiene-related issues that could be solved if clean water were made more accessible around the world.

The UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay stated, “There is an urgent need to establish strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spirality out of control. Water is our common future, and it is essential to act together to share it equitably and manage it sustainably.”

This idea of ‘establishing strong international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control’ is a part of what it means to create the Beloved Community that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned. If we are going to create a more just, humane, equitable, and peaceful world, we must we do so together.

Dr. King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The global water crisis is stated as such because every human being is dependent on water, food, and shelter for their survival. Since we are an interconnected humanity and are tied together, when one person or people group can’t access this critical resource, it affects us all. Furthermore, any human lacking access to this basic human right should appall and compel each of us to work until this injustice ceases forever.

Solving the global water crisis will require collaboration, commitment, and communication from government leaders, organizations, and concerned citizens or we could be facing an even worse crisis by 2025. This is why The King Center has opted into the discussion about the global water crisis, and why it is a necessary one for you to be a part of.

The 2024 King Holiday theme is, “It Starts with Me: Shifting the Cultural Climate Through the Study and Practice of Kingian Nonviolence.” Exploring this topic is an opportunity for all of us to shift the global water crisis for good.