Discussion papers by Nathaniel MasonMiriam Denis Le Sève and Roger Calow for ODI.

Global shifts in water and sanitation will have a profound effect on societies and economies. Other transformations are shaping these shifts, including where people live, what they expect from governments and markets, their productive and polluting activities, how they innovate and whether they pursue conflict or peace.

Understanding these shifts and their interplay is important to achieving all of the Sustainable Developments Goals, not just goal six on water and sanitation.

In this paper we introduce ten global shifts that, in our analysis, present both challenges and opportunities for sustainable development, to 2030 and beyond.

Water and sanitation will play a defining role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. From eliminating poverty and hunger to tackling climate change, water is central to tackling our biggest sustainable development challenges. In this paper we identify ten global trends and issues in water and sanitation that are often overlooked by wider audiences. We draw on the work of others, but the paper also brings together over a decade of work undertaken by the ODI Water Policy Programme. This work is undertaken in collaboration with other ODI experts on topics from governance to humanitarian response, and from energy to gender. The paper follows on from another broad review of drivers and challenges relating to water and sanitation, focusing on equity and produced in 2014 (Calow and Mason, 2014).

The paper is primarily aimed at non-specialists, with an emphasis on overlooked issues and common misconceptions. We focus on issues that are plausible and important – changes that have a degree of path dependence from recent history and will have a meaningful effect on the lives of a large proportion of the global population.

This paper accompanies the briefing 10 things to know about the future of water and sanitation. Photo: DFID  (CC BY 2.0)