Access to Water-Related Services Strongly Modulates Human Development

H. Amorocho-Daza*, P. van der Zaag, J. Sušnik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Water enables health, education, and economic well-being opportunities for humanity. Access to basic water and sanitation services, freshwater variability, and water storage are some of the dimensions that may impact on human development worldwide. Yet few studies quantitatively explore the relationship between water and human development. This study uses a statistical approach to quantify the Water-Human Development relation in a global sample, both in terms of correlation and causality between variables. Correlation is established using a multiple linear regression approach, while causality is explored by implementing the multi-spatial convergent cross mapping technique. Our study finds strong interdependence between water-related variables and human development globally. Access to water services positively influences the Human Development Index (HDI), seasonal variability of freshwater resources restricts it, and large water storage is not significant. The analysis is robust between 2000 and 2017, and implies that a 1% increment in a country's HDI is associated with a 1.3%–3.2% increment in water and sanitation access. Causal analyses show strong coupling, suggesting positive feedback between access to water services and HDI that could be exploited. Reaching Sustainable Development Goal 6 requires closing the water and sanitation access gaps while addressing freshwater variability challenges. This will result in global human development benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022EF003364
Number of pages19
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • drinking-water
  • freshwater variability
  • human development
  • sanitation
  • SDG 6
  • water-related services


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