SDG Observatory

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.


Clean Water and Sanitation Globally

Many parts of the world still struggle with access to clean water and sanitation. It is estimated that across the world, 1 in 3 people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2 in 5 people do not have a basic hand-washing facility. Access to water is not only essential for survival, but seeps into many other aspects of society.

Sanitation facilities in schools are essential for young girls to be able to manage menstrual cycles while receiving an education. Access to clean water also reduced gender inequality, as the burden to find water often falls upon women in developing countries. Sanitation is also essential in turbulent times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where hand washing can prevent the spread of disease and save lives.

Past sanitation and access to clean drinking water, SDG 6 [Sustainable Development Goal 6] is also an issue that will be impacted by SDG 13 [Sustainable Development Goal 13] : Climate Action. As world temperatures and populations increase, access to water will only become more limited. Water will become an area of society that drives conflict and further equity issues.


Clean Water and Sanitation Locally

Fortunately, drinking water in Dallas goes through extensive sanitation and management procedures, making it safe for consumption. However, recent events have proven that access to clean water can quickly be disrupted. During the 2021 winter storm, many households were put under boil orders and some lost access to running water entirely.

The DFW [Dallas / Fort Worth] area is also prone to drought, so sustainable water management practices are essential for the maintenance of lifestyles in North Texas. Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington estimate that between 2041 and 2050, DFW [Dallas / Fort Worth] will see extreme temperatures rise above 120, as well as longer droughts and more extreme rainstorms. Ensuring that water is used sustainability on campus at UT Dallas contributes to more sustainable practices and climate readiness in the future.



Reflection Pool Water Loss Research

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
A student sits next to a reflecting pool.

Photo Source: UT Dallas Magazine

Located at the center of the UT Dallas campus, the Reflection Pools are a notable landmark that require water to function. To prompt sustainability discussions, one student recorded the amount of water that was being pumped into UT Dallas’ reflection pools over 5 years. This data was compared to the annual rates, in inches, of water that was lost or gained through evaporation and rainfall. The student was looking to see if UT Dallas could take advantage of these natural cycles and reduce the amount of water needed to pump into the pools. The best solution available was having the grounds keeper keep an eye on the weather and not fill the pools if rain was eminent. Through sustainably managing water in this area of campus, UT Dallas works to keep even our aesthetic landmarks sustainable.


Sustainable Semesters: Global Water Crisis

SDG 4: Quality Education
SDG 13: Climate Action
Two students hold up bags of trash and recyclables.

Photo Source: UTD Office of Sustainability Instagram

The Student Government Green Initiative committee developed and launched the Sustainable Semesters initiative in Academic Year 2019 in order to provide education to students regarding sustainability issues. The water crisis was chosen for the inaugural year and student participants participated in common readings, presentations from faculty and experts, and workshops. 20 students participated in the program and their time was recognized through the Office of Sustainability’s Sustainable Service Honors Program. The library was able to effectively display resources and references towards educating students, faculty, and staff on this topic. Since then, the Sustainable Semesters have continued to cover a variety of different topics.


The Thirst Project at UTD

SDG 1: No Poverty
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being

The Thirst Project at UTD is an established student organization on campus and chapter of a nationwide nonprofit that is dedicated to ending the global water crisis. This is accomplished through 2 main goals: spreading awareness of the global water crisis and fundraising money to build freshwater wells in developing communities in need. The Thirst Project has raised over $10 million and started over 3,200 projects in 13 different countries to increase accessibility to clean water. You can learn more at their Instagram @utdthirstproject.


Water Use and Recovery

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Engineering & Computer Science West.

Photo Source: UTD Press Release

Potable water use per weighted campus user was estimated to be 8,569.73 gallons, or 111,666,000 gallons total. The University of Texas at Dallas continued the expansion of the campus from 2007 to 2019 by adding the Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory, the Center for Brain Health (near the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center), the Bioengineering and Sciences Building, the Engineering & Computer Science West Building, a new Science Building, The Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center, and Northside Phase 1 & 2. The addition of these buildings added a floor area of 4,271,121.65 Gross Square Feet. To measure water usage, the baseline year was selected to capture data from before the building growth on campus and associated efficiency with modern buildings. The percentage reduction in potable water usage per weighted campus user was 13.78%, and per unit of floor a reduction by 34.93%. Because of higher efficiency fixtures throughout and the growing student population, per capita usage of water is decreasing.

UT Dallas recovers water at the LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Platinum Student Services Building and LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Gold Bioengineering and Sciences Building. The Student Services Building captures rainwater for irrigation use and Bioengineering and Sciences Building features an innovative system that captures rainwater, reverse osmosis reject water harvesting, and condensate capture and utilizes the water to reduce need for potable water in irrigation. UT Dallas has adopted constructions standards that require efficient fixtures in all capital projects and remodels. UT Dallas has also updated irrigation controllers in order only irrigate when plant water needs require that rainfall is supplemented, and to eliminate unnecessary irrigation.

With the new drive to building efficient, green, and/or LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certified buildings at UT Dallas, bathrooms are of interest for water conservation efforts. Our Facilities Management team has taken the initiative to maximize water savings and conservation whenever possible when renovating bathrooms and/or replacing bathroom fixtures such as toilets, urinals, and faucets. This may include, but is not limited to, low-flush toilets and urinals, dual-flush toilets, and low-flow faucets.


Rainwater Management

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
SDG 15: Life on Land

UT Dallas is located within the boundaries of the City of Richardson’s “urbanized area” (UA [Urbanized Area] ) and is regulated under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] ) Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4 [Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System] ) permit. The overall goal of the MS4 [Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System] permit is to improve the water quality of Cottonwood Creek flowing through our campus into receiving waters, and to protect the US waterways from pollution. Environmental Affairs manages the University’s storm water compliance programs, including permitting, spill prevention, above-ground storage inspections, and outfall inspections. The Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and Stormwater Management Plan is comprised of site maps, BMP details, inspection reports, spill reports, corrective action logs and associated waivers. Contractors who are involved with construction projects on campus must comply with all applicable regulations regarding stormwater protection. Because the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and The Clean Water Act required a program for addressing the pollution caused by stormwater discharges, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality implemented and managed the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES [Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] ) Permitting Program to fulfill all Clean Water Act and federal mandates. By practicing health pollution prevention habits, campus community members can keep pollutants like dirt and common garbage that collect on paved areas from washing into storm drains.

In Fall of 2020, Eco Rep Sophia Boisvert applied for and won a USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] Grant for the University of Texas at Dallas to be used for rainwater recovery in an on-campus garden. This project will further our ability to recycle water on campus.


Water Resources & Sustainability Course

SDG 4: Quality Education
SDG 13: Climate Action
Dr. Bernine Khan

Dr. Bernine Khan

Photo Source: UTD Press Release

Taught by Dr. Bernine Khan, Water Resources & Sustainability is a course that includes a two-week visit to South Africa where students gain firsthand exposure on how South Africans live under severe drought-conditions and enhance their appreciation of natural resources. Students gain a basic understanding of water resources and the holistic perspective in developing an integrated water management system for a sustainable future. Students learn about the interconnectedness between water management planning, the hydrological cycle, water budget, water use trends, hydrology, and water quality. The course also investigates the science behind the deterioration of surface water and groundwater supplies; the relationship between rainfall, groundwater discharge, and water management planning; and the increasing dependence on water reuse and seawater as alternative resources. Students explore local and global water issues that include the challenges associated with urbanization, pollution, and climate change.


Goals / Future Work

  • Continue sustainable water management in further development of the UTD campus
  • Expand programming about native plants through Tree Campus USA and Bee Campus USA


Other Work We Do

The programs highlighted here are just one piece of the work we do on campus to achieve SDG 6 [Sustainable Development Goal 6] . View the full dataset (PDF [Portable Document Format File] ), guided by the Association of Advancement in Higher Education (AASHEAssociation of Advancement in Higher Education)’s Sustainable Development Goal translation guide.


Learn More

  • Visit SDG Academy to take the online courses about Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Learn more about the targets and indicators at the UN Global Goals website