Progress on Water-Use Efficiency – 2021 Update

Target 6.4 is: “By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.”

Indicator 6.4.1 tracks the change in water-use efficiency over time, measured as the ratio of dollar value added to the volume of water used. It considers water use by all economic activities, with a focus on agriculture, industry and the service sector. Increasing water-use efficiency over time means decoupling a country’s economic growth from its water use; in other words, the economy can continue to grow without needing more water.

This report presents the global status on water-use efficiency and acceleration needs to achieve target 6.4 by 2030, based on the latest data on indicator 6.4.1.

Water-use efficiency rose from 17.3 USD/m3 in 2015 to 18.9 USD/m3 in 2018 worldwide, representing a 9 percent efficiency increase. All economic sectors have seen an increase in their water-use efficiency since 2015. In 2018, the industrial sector had a water-use efficiency equivalent to 32 USD/m3, the services sector 112 USD/m3 and the agriculture sector 0.60 USD/m3. Compared with 2015, this represents an increase of 15 percent in the industrial sector, 8 percent in the services sector and 8 percent in the agriculture sector.

Dependency between water use and the gross value added in the agriculture and services sectors appears to be a continuing trend. Within the industrial sector, however, water use has been reduced drastically for the generation of value added, meaning increased water-use efficiency.