Sustainable Development Goals

Indicator 6.4.1 - Change in water use efficiency over time

Water Use Efficiency (WUE) at national level is the sum of the efficiencies in the major economic sectors weighted according to the proportion of water withdrawn by each sector over the total withdrawals. The indicator measures changes in WUE and has been designed to address the economic component of SDG Target 6.4.

Target 6.4

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.

Change in water-use efficiency over time 


This indicator will improve knowledge on the efficiency and sustainability of water usage. Together with indicator 6.4.2, it will provide vital information to ensure that water resources support the world's ecosystems and continue to be available for future generations.

Key results

Water use efficiency rose by 12 percent from 2015 to 2019 worldwide, and the share of countries with a water use efficiency equivalent to 20 USD/m3 or less decreased marginally. 

Water use efficiency rose from 17.4 USD/m3 in 2015 to 19.4 USD/m3 in 2019 worldwide, representing an efficiency increase of 12 percent. In 2019, estimates for water use efficiency ranged from below 3 USD/m3 in economies that depend largely on agriculture, to over 50 USD/m3 in highly industrialized, service-based economies. This suggests that a country’s economic structure has a direct link to its overall water use efficiency levels. Around 57 percent of countries registered a water use efficiency equivalent to 20 USD/m3 or less in 2019, compared to 58 percent in 2015. 

However, global values hide vast regional differences. Central and Southern Asia and Eastern Asia and South-eastern Asia show the highest growth rates from 2015 to 2019, while Latin America and the Caribbean shows a decrease in water use efficiency. 

Increasing agricultural water productivity (the value of output in relation to the quantity of water beneficially consumed) is key for improving water use efficiency, particularly in agriculture-based economies. Another important strategy to increase overall water efficiency is reducing water losses, for example by tackling leakages in municipal distribution networks and optimizing industrial and energy cooling processes. 



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