Water Management

By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with absolute (physical) water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under water stress conditions (UNESCO, 2012). It is important for the UN to understand its impact on the water supply in the communities in which it operates. The 2017 inventory was the first official UN waste inventory.


Results in 2018


In 2018, a total of 58 entities provided 2017 water data; 56 of these entities provided quantitative data. SUN commends entities for the high participation rates during the first year of reporting water data.

According to the data gathered, the UN System used a total of 11 million cubic meters (m3) of water in 2017, which works out at an average of 53 m3 per capita. It is worth noting that water usage varied significantly between sites, which is expected due to the differences in the ways in which water is used in the UN’s many locations. Some sites may have cafeterias on site that require water in the preparation of meals. Some sites include outdoor areas that require maintenance. Other sites may use water for their cooling systems instead of refrigerants. This is why it is important for sites to compare themselves to similar locations when looking at their water usage.

In addition to water usage, water treatment data was also gathered. Entities reported that slightly less than 2% of the water used in 2017 was recycled internally. Examples of recycling water internally include collecting water previously used onsite (e.g. from sinks) to flush toilets or for watering landscaping. The practice of recycling water is an opportunity to reduce our fresh water consumption. 

To learn more about how the UN’s water data is calculated, please read our methodology.


Case studies


IFAD Headquarters in Italy reduced its water consumption and lawn-maintenance needs by planting Lippia nodiflora, which offers a tough and drought-resistant ground cover.

Read other water-related case studies from across the UN System here.

Click here for a full version of the water table.


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