23 Incredible Facts About Water in Africa (Statistics and MORE)

Are you concerned about the water crisis in Africa?

Have you always heard that there’s a problem with the water in Africa, but you’ve never been totally sure what’s going on?

Do you want to learn about this situation so you can figure out the best way you can help?

Whatever brings you here, you’re in the right place to learn. In this article, you’ll be introduced to the major water problem that affects the entire continent of Africa. You’ll find out just what makes this problem so widespread and how come it’s been nearly impossible to solve it, and you’ll also learn which industries and parts of the continent put the greatest strain on Africa’s water.

In the bulk of this article, you’ll discover facts about water in Africa that can help you better understand just what’s going on. Whether you’re interested in learning about how the water problem is distributed across the continent, how it affects the economy, which waterborne diseases the people of Africa face most often, or how many people die each year as a result of these illnesses, you’ll learn all this and more in the second half of this article.

By the time you make it through these facts, you might want to know what’s being done or how you can pitch in and make a difference. Be sure to check out the conclusion for some suggestions you can participate in to help improve the quality of water in this very critical situation.

Read on to learn more.

Jump To A Section!

Africa’s Biggest Problem

It’s no secret that Africa has a water problem. People in developed countries have known this for a long time, and organizations and governments around the world have been trying to make a difference for decades. Unfortunately, the continent of Africa continues to face a big problem, and it only seems to be getting worse no matter how hard people try to resolve it.

facts about water in africa


The biggest issue is the inability to find fresh, clean water for drinking and daily living. Most people in Africa rely on surface water and don’t have the technology or the money to dig wells to harvest groundwater. Since Africa is an arid continent, surface water evaporates often, and when that’s coupled with the strain placed on these bodies of water by large populations, the result is a receding water table across the continent.

Sanitation also poses a big problem. Many people don’t have dedicated sewage or septic systems, so human waste builds up over time and pollutes the surface water used for drinking. Even in agricultural processes, animal waste can’t be disposed of properly, leading to unsanitary conditions that are perfect for the spread of disease. There are a lot of factors that work together to cause problems for the condition of water across Africa, and these don’t seem to be easing up anytime soon.

How Does Africa Use Its Water?

Before you jump into learning about clean and dirty water in Africa facts, it’s a good idea to understand just how this continent uses its water in the first place.

1. Like most other parts of the world, Africa’s water strain comes largely from its agriculture

africa water strain


Most of the water used throughout the continent goes toward growing crops and raising livestock. Unfortunately, even the larger scale agricultural projects that take place every year usually don’t see a profit, and they’re not planned well enough to best utilize a dwindling water supply. They have even caused the food output to come in at well under its projected number, and they often take water away from those who rely on fishing as their main source of income.

2. Mining also puts a big strain on Africa’s water.

It takes a lot of water to run a mine, but this is a major industry across the continent. Other countries also often set up mining locations throughout the many countries of Africa, which further puts high demands on water that really should be saved for the people who actually live there. Mining practices can and do seriously pollute the water, too, especially with heavy metals that are exposed during the process.

3. Of course, drinking water is an important part of any inhabited part of the world, and although this isn’t the most common use of water across Africa, it’s the one that sees the biggest threat.

​Clean Water Facts

africa clean water facts


In this section, you’ll discover clean water in Africa statistics and information to help you better understand what a serious situation this really is. This is a general section that doesn’t focus on one specific facet of the African water crisis but instead introduces you to the situation as a whole. Here, you’ll learn where this water problem comes from, how it affects humans and the environment, and which parts of the continent struggle more than others. If you’ve ever wanted to learn facts and stats about this situation, this is a great place to get started.

4. Fourteen of the countries in Africa experience water stress, and within the next few years, another 11 are expected to reach this critical point too.

By this point, 50% of the 1.45 billion people who live in countries like Africa will be threatened by a lack of clean, fresh water or the inability to find enough water to sustain normal life. Water stress occurs as an immediate result of pollution, but it also comes from a lack of technology to help reach groundwater sources and an over-reliance on surface water as the only source of fresh water.

5. Part of what causes such a water shortage throughout the continent is a lack of attention to the wetlands and mountain regions.

These parts of Africa are quite scarce already, especially in comparison to less arid parts of the world, and as water continues to be used and overused in unsafe ways, these natural ecosystems become more and more threatened. These wetlands are incredibly important because the fresh water that can be found there can also recharge the water table and help supply clean water to other parts of the country.

6. Many species native to Africa are critically endangered.

243 different types of fish alone are found in the basins throughout Africa, and of these, twenty of them are not found anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, because of the stress to the water supply, these fish are dying in huge numbers, and some of the species are beyond the ability to be saved. Fish aren’t the only ones threatened, however, and some of the rarest species of mammals and birds in the world are going to be lost very quickly if nothing is done about the water problem in Africa.

7. In Sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of the 159 million people living there still rely completely on or almost completely on surface water.

This might not sound like a big problem at first, but it means a lot lower water quality overall. Surface water has the potential to be more seriously contaminated by human and animal waste, and it can also be used up much more quickly than groundwater can. When surface water is overused, it disappears, and this is a major issue facing this part of Africa.

8. Around 5% of the gross domestic product in Sub-Saharan Africa is lost every year as a direct result of polluted or contaminated water, lack of water, or poor sanitation.

There are many economic reasons that contribute to this loss of funding for the region, but when money is lost, this means there’s nothing in the budget to help improve technology, sanitation, or water conditions. This creates a vicious cycle of poor water causing a deficit that, in turn, doesn’t provide funds to improve the poor water that caused the problem in the first place.

9. Some of Africa’s countries have a worse water situation than others.

The country with the highest percentage of people with no access to safe drinking water is Ghana, coming in at 85%, closely followed by Malawi at 80%. Burkina Faso, Lesotho, and Uganda are close behind this at 75% of people living in these countries facing a lack of clean, dedicated drinking water. The African country with the best water conditions is Ethiopia, with only 40% of its residents dealing with a lack of clean water. Madagascar, Mozambique, and Niger all come in at anywhere between 45% and 50%. This is still a huge number, and it’s distressing that even the African countries with the cleanest water still face such a staggering problem.

10. Women are more commonly expected to go get water for their households than men in Africa.

The jerry can is the most common form of water transportation used by these women, and when it’s filled with water, it weighs about forty pounds. If these women want their families to have access to any water at all, they must make this trip at least once a day, and sometimes more often than that. Unfortunately, even after all this effort, the water is usually very unclean and unsafe to drink, but families are forced to rely on it anyway.

11. Around the world, 783 million people don’t have access to clean, dedicated drinking water.

dirty water in africa


This means that they rely on polluted or contaminated water sources, have no technology with which to clean up those water sources, and usually don’t have the proper sanitation required to keep this water from becoming dirtier and less safe over time. Of this huge number, 37% of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. This doesn’t even account for people in the rest of the continent.

12. There are 677 lakes on the continent of Africa.

Between these lakes, they hold thirty thousand cubic kilometers of water. Although it might seem strange to think that so much water could be found on such an arid continent, this is actually the largest volume of non-frozen water on any one continent in the world. In ten years, Lake Victoria, the largest lake on the continent, has receded by a full meter. Lake Chad has receded to a tenth of the size it once was. These lakes support a huge population, and the more people who rely on them for their water, the less water there will be available.

13. One of the big problems that affect water strain in Africa is the population imbalance.

30 million people live around Lake Victoria and place a huge demand on its water, with around 1200 people living in each square kilometer surrounding it. However, only 10% of the population of the whole continent lives in the Congo basin, where 30% of the continent’s water can be found. There is no technology available to this country to help transport clean water from the Congo basin to the populated parts of the continent that need it the most.

Water Related Illness

In this section, you’ll learn water in Africa facts about illness, disease, and parasites that affect people in this part of the world every day. You’ll find out which parts of the population have a harder time dealing with waterborne illnesses as well as which diseases are the most prevalent. You’ll learn which countries have the dirtiest water versus which ones have the cleanest, and you’ll find out about a couple of instances of water pollution that contributed to health issues across the continent.

14. In 1997, about half of the population of Africa suffered from at least one major water-related illness.

water related illness in africa


This equaled out to about 778 million people at the time, and the number has only risen since then. For the purposes of this study, these water-related illnesses included cholera, typhoid, E. coli, dysentery, polio, and hepatitis. Unfortunately, even though this study was some time ago, the problem persists even today. In 2001, over ten thousand people in South Africa became seriously ill from cholera.

15. Every day across Africa, over 650 people die from diseases related to diarrhea.

This mostly affects young children and infants under the age of five, but it can also be a serious problem for the elderly and for anyone who is already immunocompromised. In infants and children under five, 85% of all diseases experienced can be traced back to water. Part of the problem lies in a lack of technology to treat these illnesses, but the source of this issue is the severely contaminated and polluted water found throughout the continent.

16. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a massive 42% of hospitals in the region exist without clean, purified, or treated water available at all.

This isn’t just drinking water—this means the hospital operates completely with no access to fresh, clean water. 16% of these hospitals also function without improved sanitation conditions, meaning there’s no healthy or safe way to dispose of human waste from these locations. 36% of Sub-Saharan hospitals don’t have hand soap available, so even if they wash their hands in the polluted water, they’re not doing much good.

17. Sanitation in residential parts of Sub-Saharan Africa has a lot to do with the spread of disease, too.

It’s estimated that less than one in three people in this part of Africa have dedicated, regular access to a working toilet. Data has also proven that only 50% of the people in this part of Africa practice regular, healthy hand washing habits. Combining the presence of human waste with a lack of hand washing is a recipe for the spread of illness, disease, and parasites. Unfortunately, the exposure of human waste also means these contaminants find their way into surface water used for drinking more often than not.

18. The average life expectancy in African countries varies greatly depending on the water condition for that particular country.

However, even Uganda, which has the longest life expectancy of any African country, still comes in at only around 60 to 65 years of age. The next closest is Rwanda, with an average life expectancy of around 58 years. On the other end of the spectrum is Lesotho, where the life expectancy is only about 49 years, and Niger, where it’s about fifty years. The African country with the lowest life expectancy is Sierra Leone, where people generally only live to be about 46 years old.

19. The infant mortality rate in these countries directly correlates to the life expectancy issue.

Once again, Uganda comes in at the top of the chart, with about 80 infant deaths in every one thousand studied. Sierra Leone’s mortality rate is three times higher, at 180 infant deaths per every one thousand births studied. Most of the rest of the countries throughout Africa fall somewhere in the middle, averaging out at around 100 infant deaths per one thousand live births. These are incredibly high numbers and they can be directly traced back to the problem of water pollution on the whole continent.

20. Cholera and hepatitis are the most common waterborne illnesses that affect people throughout Africa every day.

water skin disease in africa


However, several others plague this continent, including ringworm and hookworm, malaria, typhoid, giardiasis, cryptosporidia, legionellosis, salmonella poisoning, Dengue fever, malaria, polio, dysentery, and many others. Many times, people who drink the unsanitary water found throughout Africa suffer from serious diarrhea and vomiting even if they aren’t sure which of these diseases or parasites is causing it. This can lead to dehydration quickly, which in turn often leads to death.

21. Around the world, 35% of deaths in infants and children under the age of five can be attributed to malnutrition.

Although water certainly isn’t the only cause of this, it’s believed that parasites, repeated diarrhea-related illnesses, and a lack of sanitation and clean water causes at least half of these instances of malnutrition. A massive number of these deaths occur throughout Africa, although there are certainly other parts of the world where childhood death related to poor water conditions is a major issue, too.

22. In the floods that took place in Mozambique in 1999 and 2000, over a million people were displaced and an untold number of people died.

This was a major event that led to some serious pollution issues. As more soil and sediment washed into surface water sources and more dead human and animal bodies contaminated fresh water in the area, pollution rose significantly. This problem is still being felt throughout the country, as people were forced to continue relying on this now even more severely contaminated water for day-to-day life.

23. Mining disasters often contribute to water pollution in Africa that makes people very sick.

In 1994, the Harmony Gold mine near Merriespruit in South Africa suffered a tailings dam failure which led to 2.5 million tons of tailings wastewater spilling into the nearby town, groundwater, and surface water. This wastewater was contaminated with heavy metals and other byproducts of the mining process, and nearly three hundred houses were either heavily damaged or swept away completely by the water. Eighteen people died and the surrounding area was affected by polluted water for a long time to come.

Solutions to the Water Problem in Africa

You’ve seen a lot of clean water in Africa facts and figures, but you might be wondering just what’s being done to actually take care of this very serious problem. In this section, you’ll find out what organizations in Africa and around the world are doing to combat this major water crisis.

water facts and figures


  • The World Health Organization is encouraging people to donate even just one dollar toward the improvement of water conditions in Africa. According to the WHO, every dollar spent toward this worthy cause sees a return of three to thirty-four dollars in the African economy. They also state that donating to the cause of clean water can help give children in Africa and around the world 413 million days of health combined. This organization is doing a lot to try to encourage people in more developed countries to take an interest in what’s going on in Africa.
  • The African Ministers Council on Water and the African Union Commission work together twice a year as part of African Water Week. During this time, over a thousand political figures convene to try to solve the problem of water in Africa. These aren’t just representatives from Africa itself, but also from all over the world. These important figures brainstorm and present plenty of possibilities to help clean up and conserve the remaining water throughout the continent. Some of these ideas end up working and others don’t, but the important thing is that officials are trying to get something done about this serious issue.
  • The Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which is a long-term plan for the whole world to take part in, includes plenty of points with Africa’s water crisis specifically in mind. This plan outlines many different ways countries and continents around the world can pitch in to help clean up the environment and ensure sustainable practices for years to come. Although this is a new plan that has only recently been installed, it remains an exciting prospect that seems as though it might make a big difference in the long run.


You’ve come a long way since the beginning of this article when you wondered a lot about what is going on with Africa’s water crisis. By now, you’ve learned a ton about statistics, facts and figures that say a lot about just what this country is going through. It’s hard to read these facts and not feel something for the struggles your fellow human beings are going through every day on the other side of the world.

So, now that you’ve finished reading this article, you’re probably more than ready to figure out what you can do to make a difference. Remember that there are many things you can accomplish, even if you never travel to Africa in your life. This is a country that relies heavily on outside help from other people around the world, and the more you get involved with water cleanup and provision, the better off everyone will be.

Quick Fixes

Some quick fixes can be instituted to help provide fresh, clean water to the people who need it most. These are the things you can usually find a way to get involved with, whether that means traveling to Africa yourself of sending money to help nonprofit organizations do good work.

  • Donate time If there’s a nonprofit organization in your area that works to improve water quality in Africa, you can always find a way to volunteer with them. Although the most beneficial method would be to go to Africa and do work where it’s needed most, there are always other ways these organizations need assistance. For example, if you know web design, you can help improve the organization’s website and keep it up to date with current information.
  • Donate money – Giving money to nonprofit groups that provide clean drinking water to people in Africa is a great way to get involved with the cause without having to leave your home to do it. Many of these organizations will allow you to choose the way in which you want your donation to be spent, which is often a plus.
  • Shop with a cause More and more online marketplaces, like Amazon, are offering to donate a small portion of the money you spend on your regular purchases to the charity of your choice. Some of the charities you can pick from include those that work with water in Africa. If you can’t afford to make a separate donation to these groups but still want to help, this can be a good way to give without going over your budget.

Long-term Solutions

Over the course of several years, these long-term solutions need to be put into place to help provide clean drinking water for a long time to come. Some of these are things you might not be able to help much with, but if you put your mind to it, you’re sure to come up with new and creative means of getting the word out.

  • Encourage your government to get involved – No matter which country you live in, you can write to the higher-ups in your government and encourage them to get involved with the water crisis in Africa. Many developed countries are already doing something here and there, but there’s always more they can do. Do some research and find out what your country might be doing or the changes they could make in their policies to help improve the situation in Africa.
  • Boundaries and politics – One of the biggest underlying problems that affects water in Africa is politics. Many sources of fresh water across the continent supply more than one country at a time. When this happens, the countries upstream are almost solely responsible for the quality of water as it makes its way downstream. Downstream countries suffer and upstream countries can’t or won’t do anything about it. This needs to change, and although many African governments are working toward improving this situation, it’s far from there yet.
  • Infrastructure – Africa as a whole doesn’t have access to the sort of infrastructure technology it needs to carry water from the Congo basin, where it’s more plentiful, to the parts of the continent that need it the most. If other countries can help fund and build this system, the water crisis might see a huge shift for the better.

Of course, there are always other things you can do to make a difference, too. Some of the changes that need to be made can only happen from within the country itself, but there are many more that you can get involved with no matter where you live. You don’t always have to give money to help get something done, but of course, this is a great place to get started. Remember that if you choose to donate to any water charities, you should always do your research to be sure you’re giving to one that isn’t using the money for unsavory purposes.

Find the best way for you to get involved, and get ready to make a difference.