Human Development Report 2006 - Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis

UNDP Human Development Reports (2006)

Posted: 20 Jul 2013

See all articles by Kevin Watkins

Kevin Watkins

United Nations - Human Development Report Office

Date Written: November 9, 2006


Throughout history water has confronted humanity with some of its greatest challenges. Water is a source of life and a natural resource that sustains our environments and supports livelihoods – but it is also a source of risk and vulnerability. In the early 21st Century, prospects for human development are threatened by a deepening global water crisis. Debunking the myth that the crisis is the result of scarcity, this report argues poverty, power and inequality are at the heart of the problem.

In a world of unprecedented wealth, almost 2 million children die each year for want of a glass of clean water and adequate sanitation. Millions of women and young girls are forced to spend hours collecting and carrying water, restricting their opportunities and their choices. And water-borne infectious diseases are holding back poverty reduction and economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Beyond the household, competition for water as a productive resource is intensifying. Symptoms of that competition include the collapse of water-based ecological systems, declining river flows and large-scale groundwater depletion. Conflicts over water are intensifying within countries, with the rural poor losing out. The potential for tensions between countries is also growing, though there are large potential human development gains from increased cooperation.

Suggested Citation

Watkins, Kevin, Human Development Report 2006 - Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis (November 9, 2006). UNDP Human Development Reports (2006), Available at SSRN:

Kevin Watkins (Contact Author)

United Nations - Human Development Report Office

304 E. 45th Street
New York, NY 10017
United States

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