Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

MSMEs provide water and sanitation services, and technological innovations in this space inspire MSMEs such as taking “water from air.”40 MSMEs fill the gap in many developing countries where the public sector fails to reach communities, particularly low-income families. In Asia, MSMEs, either through their own funds or loans and some equity, are delivering water and creating sanitation infrastructure in the rural-remote or dense-urban areas. These MSMEs provide, in various innovative ways, safe water in cans or affordable water filtration systems; similarly, they provide household latrines with onsite waste treatment or transportation and treatment/recycling of the waste. MSMEs in the water and sanitation sector, however, face difficulties in viability due to limitations in demand, lack of business and technical skills, and financial challenges such as access to credit. Capacity building of MSMEs in the sector can contribute to the goal.

Agricultural and food supply chain also play a role in water conservation. The discussion of Goal 2 above touches on the importance of agricultural MSMEs, and the agriculture sector is by far the largest user of freshwater, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of global water withdrawals. Saving just a fraction of this can alleviate water stress in other sectors, particularly in arid countries where agriculture can consume as much as 90 per cent of available water resources.41 MSMEs active in the agricultural value chain can contribute to water savings by increasing productivity of food crops, improving water management practices and technologies, implementing sustainable agricultural practices, and growing fewer water-intensive crops.

The World Bank identified a potential US $1.2 trillion market for MSMEs in the developing world in the area of “clean technology” for the decade ending in 2023.42 This includes numerous opportunities in waste management. MSMEs are well-placed to operate in this sector as they are already engaged in areas such as construction, installation, operations and maintenance and the connection that MSMEs have to local markets.

Policy measures to support Goal 6:

  • Facilitate the provision of WASH43 facilities at MSMEs workplaces and develop advocacy and education campaigns for WASH amongst employees.
  • Ensure that MSMEs are included in campaigns to improve waste management and water efficiency across all industries.
  • In industries where water polluting chemicals are widely used, conduct assessments to determine where MSMEs can make an outsized contribution to water quality improvement by substituting more environmentally-friendly alternatives in preference to hazardous substances.

40 Water from Air

41 UN-Water (2018). Sustainable Development Goal 6 - Synthesis Report on Water and Sanitation.

42 World Bank (2014). Building Competitive Green Industries: The Climate and Clean Technology Opportunity for Developing Countries.

43 WHO (2020), WASH in health care facilities