Land & Water

19 November is World Toilet Day…Everyone must have sustainable sanitation that can fight climate change!

Safe reuse of human waste helps save water, reduces and captures greenhouse gas emissions for energy production and provides agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients.

Climate change is accelerating. Flood, drought and rising sea levels are threatening sanitation systems, from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. Floodwater can contaminate wells used for drinking water. Flooding can also damage toilets and spread human waste into communities and food crops, causing deadly and chronic diseases, and posing risks to crop and food safety.

Today, 4.2 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation. Instead they often use unreliable, inadequate toilets or practice open defecation. Open defecation and unimproved sanitation are one of the main factors leading to malnutrition, being major contributors to water and soil pollution. In rural areas, polluted waters are used for crop irrigation and other agricultural activities such as livestock watering, bringing pathogens and other contaminants into contact with crops and animals.

Globally, 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, as well as untreated human waste gets out into the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases. When water is exposed to untreated human excreta, it becomes a breeding ground for parasites and, soil and water-borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, E. coli, salmonella and soil-transmitted intestinal worms (helminthiases). 

Everyone must have sustainable sanitation that can fight climate change and keep communities healthy and functioning. Sustainable sanitation systems also make productive use of wastewater and bio solids that contain valuable water, nutrients and energy, to safely boost agriculture while reducing and capturing greenhouse gas emissions.

FAO is supporting member countries to adopt the circular economy approach applied to agriculture, making it environmentally friendly, sustainable and more resilient to shocks such as COVID-19.

It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation for all by 2030.

To know more about FAO support to member countries, please visit the dedicated webpage.

For more information on the World Toilet Day, visit the official website.