/SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

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Günter Langergraber
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Tel: +43 1 47654 81001


Sandra Nicolics
Universität für Bodenkultur Wien
Tel: +43 1 47654 81119

The Agenda 2030

Target 6.1 ("Clean drinking water") and Target 6.2 ("Sanitation") aim at access to drinking water and sanitation for all. In this context, attention must be paid to maintaining the high quality of the water and sanitation infrastructure, and appropriate funds for necessary renovation, adaptation and renewal measures must be guaranteed. Together with Target 6.3 ("Water quality"), the aim is to recover energy and resources from the sanitation system with a view to sustainability, resource efficiency and "future fitness", while maintaining or increasing the purification performance and reducing emissions (especially of trace substances). In addition to pollution from households, these also enter our water bodies from residential and traffic areas, industry, medical facilities and agriculture.

Target 6.4. ("Water efficiency") must take into account future developments (e.g. changes in supply or consumption) as well as a regionally and temporally differentiated view of water resources. Target 6.5 ("integrated water resources management, IWRM") is legally well implemented in Austria, but there is still room for improvement in the integrated, holistic approach and the optimal balancing of interests between sectors. IWRM also supports Target 6.6 ("Protection of water-related ecosystems").

To achieve SDG 6 at the global level, Target 6.a. ("International cooperation in drinking water and sanitation") and corresponding financial resources are important. Also Target 6.b. ("Participation of local communities") is essential in order to be able to manage the systemic challenges mentioned above in a transdisciplinary manner.

Situation in Austria

Austria, as a water-rich and prosperous country with a correspondingly well-developed infrastructure, scores very well on some of the SDG 6 targets, as measured by the UN indicators. Viewed as a whole – taking into account the conservation of our planet's finite resources, sustainable development for all, sustainable consumption and challenges such as climate change and species extinction – there is, however, also a clear need for action for Austria.
This has been demonstrated in recent years; for example, by water shortages in some municipalities or by the increase in the intensity of weather and runoff extremes. The condition of water-related ecosystems does not meet the legal requirements due to hydro-morphological and material stresses, and most wetlands have already had to make way for other human uses. SDG 6 therefore requires a paradigm shift from technological approaches to integrated systems thinking to achieve sustainability.
Newly emerging problematic substances that are often not covered by conventional wastewater treatment, rising raw material prices and raw material shortages represent growing challenges and uncertainty factors. The maintenance of the infrastructure created for water and sanitation supply is associated with increasing financial expenditure and poses new challenges due to changes in utilisation (changes in population structure and urbanisation, heavy rainfall events, sealing).
Austria can contribute to the fulfilment of SDG 6 at the global level through appropriate research and as a role model. Awareness of the global impacts of one's own consumption (external water footprint) and the associated sustainable use of water must be taken into account.

Option list

(based on the options report to be published)

The options elaborated by the SDG groups are to serve as a means of communicating to the federal government which concrete options can be set by Austria in order to implement the 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The options report will be published on 02.12.2021.

  • Option 6.1: Resource-oriented sanitation provision
  • Option 6.2: Increased use of blue-green-brown infrastructure
  • Option 6.3: Promote efficient use and management of water resources
  • Option 6.4: Maintaining and restoring the ecological functions of inland waters (incl. peatlands & wetlands)
  • Option 6.5: Reduction of diffuse nutrient and problematic substance inputs
  • Option 6.6: Reduction of trace substances
  • Option 6.7: Drinking water and sanitation in public spaces
  • Option 6.8: Improved groundwater protection through demand-oriented research
  • Option 6.9: Strengthening Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) for sustainable management of water resources
  • Option 6.10: Increasing WASH-relevant development cooperation
  • Option 6.11: Promoting transformation processes through co-design and co-creation