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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

A Global Commitment to Stop the Flow of Lead in Drinking Water

The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina (
Academic institution

    Lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs brain function and irreversibly harms children’s cognitive development. No safe level of lead exposure has been identified. Approximately 1 in every 3 children worldwide (about 800 million children) currently have elevated blood lead levels which may be a significant factor in intellectual disabilities, decreased IQ, and in reducing lifelong earning potential. This makes lead not only a serious and significant public health threat but a key environmental risk factor that can exacerbate inequalities in marginalized groups. Addressing this challenge will require concerted efforts by our cross-sectoral partner organizations, including Member States, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, WASH implementers, water component manufacturers, and academia.

    Water is a significant, but relatively easy to address, source of lead exposure. The primary source of lead in drinking-water is lead-leaching parts and materials in water systems, including piped networks, plumbing and fixtures in buildings (e.g., homes and schools), and small water systems (e.g., hand pumps and their components). A WHO Technical Brief issued in August 2022 noted that “Prevention is the most effective action to reduce exposure to lead through drinking water” and encouraged global action.

    We are launching this global initiative by bringing together a coalition of government, private sector, and non-government partners focused on reducing morbidity and mortality associated with lead exposure from drinking water. Our cross-sectoral partnership has three objectives:

    1. Secure a commitment from governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, multi-lateral financial institutions, and partners in the private sector to eliminate the use of lead-leaching parts in new drinking water systems by 2030 and to progressively work towards making all drinking water lead free by 2040. The pledge commitment and list of founding partners can be accessed on the website.

    2. will become a knowledge hub that summarizes the knowledge and tools to support national governments and implementing partners seeking to establish, monitor, and enforce new regulations and standards, to improve water quality testing, and to implement reforms in the design, construction, building, and commissioning of drinking water supply systems.

    3. We will work to develop and codify international standards and guidelines on lead in drinking water and parts used in drinking water systems. And,

    4. We will invite other states and organizations to be partners on the pledge and broader initiative and collectively advocate for the progressive elimination of lead and other toxic metals in drinking water systems.

    Expected Impact

    As part of our global commitment to provide water that is free from microbial hazards and priority chemical contaminants that impact human health, this global initiative will work towards preventing lead-leaching from new drinking water systems by 2030 and making all drinking water lead free by 2040. The partners on the Global Pledge to Protect Drinking Water from Lead have agreed to work collectively to protect drinking water from lead through the following actions:

    • We will ensure that all new water systems are constructed with products and materials that meet international standards for lead-leaching, material safety, and performance.

    • For existing water systems that may contain lead-leaching materials, we will develop and implement plans for periodic water lead monitoring and data sharing, including the transparent communication of monitoring results to communities served.

    • We will investigate water systems reporting lead levels at 10 ppb (the WHO guideline value) or above to identify contamination sources and implement necessary interim or long-term remedial measures to reduce human exposure.

    • Support communities to reduce or eliminate exposure to lead through education and action such as designating safe taps for drinking and cooking.

    • To implement these commitments, we will:

    a. Support the adoption of national policies and regulations based on international standards and testing/certification requirements for products and materials used in drinking water systems that address lead-leaching, material safety, and performance.
    b. Support manufacturing of products and materials used in drinking water systems that meet international standards for lead-leaching, material safety, and performance.
    c. Support affordable access to fittings, fixtures and filters that meet international standards for lead in drinking water.
    d. Support the development of low-cost technologies to enable widespread testing for lead in drinking water and materials to better understand the sources, impacts, and mitigation/remediation of lead contamination in drinking water.
    e. Support the training and certification of professionals to oversee the design and construction of safe drinking water systems.
    f. Support and develop national and local laboratory and monitoring capacity to assess and monitor lead in drinking water and materials to support implementation of these commitments.
    g. Support high-quality research to better understand and identify sources, impacts, and effective prevention and remediation methods and approaches to minimize harm from lead in drinking water.


    Governments of Ghana, Uganda, and South Africa; World Health Organization; UNICEF; World Vision; WaterAid; International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials; Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; LIXIL; RTI International; Rural Water Sanitation Network; Skat Foundation; University of Leeds; World Plumbing Council; The Water Institute at UNC

    Goal 3

    Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

    Goal 3


    By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births

    Maternal mortality ratio


    Proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel


    By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births

    Under-five mortality rate


    Neonatal mortality rate


    By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases


    Number of new HIV infections per 1,000 uninfected population, by sex, age and key populations


    Tuberculosis incidence per 100,000 population


    Malaria incidence per 1,000 population


    Hepatitis B incidence per 100,000 population


    Number of people requiring interventions against neglected tropical diseases


    By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being

    Mortality rate attributed to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease


    Suicide mortality rate


    Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol


    Coverage of treatment interventions (pharmacological, psychosocial and rehabilitation and aftercare services) for substance use disorders


    Alcohol per capita consumption (aged 15 years and older) within a calendar year in litres of pure alcohol


    By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents

    Death rate due to road traffic injuries


    By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes


    Proportion of women of reproductive age (aged 15-49 years) who have their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods


    Adolescent birth rate (aged 10-14 years; aged 15-19 years) per 1,000 women in that age group


    Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all


    Coverage of essential health services


    Proportion of population with large household expenditures on health as a share of total household expenditure or income


    By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination

    Mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution


    Mortality rate attributed to unsafe water, unsafe sanitation and lack of hygiene (exposure to unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All (WASH) services)


    Mortality rate attributed to unintentional poisoning


    Strengthen the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate

    Age-standardized prevalence of current tobacco use among persons aged 15 years and older


    Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all


    Proportion of the target population covered by all vaccines included in their national programme

    Total net official development assistance to medical research and basic health sectors

    Proportion of health facilities that have a core set of relevant essential medicines available and affordable on a sustainable basis


    Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States

    Health worker density and distribution


    Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks


    International Health Regulations (IHR) capacity and health emergency preparedness


    Percentage of bloodstream infections due to selected antimicrobial-resistant organisms

    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    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


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Goal 10

    Reduce inequality within and among countries

    Goal 10


    By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average


    Growth rates of household expenditure or income per capita among the bottom 40 per cent of the population and the total population


    By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status


    Proportion of people living below 50 per cent of median income, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard


    Proportion of population reporting having personally felt discriminated against or harassed within the previous 12 months on the basis of a ground of discrimination prohibited under international human rights law


    Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality


    Labour share of GDP


    Redistributive impact of fiscal policy


    Improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen the implementation of such regulations


    Financial Soundness Indicators


    Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions

    Proportion of members and voting rights of developing countries in international organizations


    Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies


    Recruitment cost borne by employee as a proportion of montlhy income earned in country of destination


    Number of countries with migration policies that facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people


    Number of people who died or disappeared in the process of migration towards an international destination


    Proportion of the population who are refugees, by country of origin


    Implement the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, in accordance with World Trade Organization agreements

    Proportion of tariff lines applied to imports from least developed countries and developing countries with zero-tariff


    Encourage official development assistance and financial flows, including foreign direct investment, to States where the need is greatest, in particular least developed countries, African countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their national plans and programmes

    Total resource flows for development, by recipient and donor countries and type of flow (e.g. official development assistance, foreign direct investment and other flows)


    By 2030, reduce to less than 3 per cent the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent


    Remittance costs as a proportion of the amount remitted

    Goal 11

    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    Goal 11


    By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums


    Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing


    By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons

    Proportion of population that has convenient access to public transport, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries

    Ratio of land consumption rate to population growth rate


    Proportion of cities with a direct participation structure of civil society in urban planning and management that operate regularly and democratically


    Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage


    Total per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of all cultural and natural heritage, by source of funding (public, private), type of heritage (cultural, natural) and level of government (national, regional, and local/municipal)


    By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations


    Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population


    Direct economic loss attributed to disasters in relation to global domestic product (GDP)


    (a) Damage to critical infrastructure and (b) number of disruptions to basic services, attributed to disasters


    By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management


    Proportion of municipal solid waste collected and managed in controlled facilities out of total municipal waste generated, by cities


    Annual mean levels of fine particulate matter (e.g. PM2.5 and PM10) in cities (population weighted)


    By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities

    Average share of the built-up area of cities that is open space for public use for all, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    Proportion of persons victim of non-sexual or sexual harassment, by sex, age, disability status and place of occurrence, in the previous 12 months


    Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning


    Number of countries that have national urban policies or regional development plans that (a) respond to population dynamics; (b) ensure balanced territorial development; and (c) increase local fiscal space


    By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels


    Number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030


    Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies


    Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials

    Name Description
    Stop the use of leaded components in all new drinking water systems
    Institute national reporting processes and Voluntary National Reviews at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum for monitoring
    Make all drinking water lead free
    Financing (in USD)
    Donors have provided significant funding to develop the capacity building materials and to work with countries to develop and implement lead reduction strategies.
    Staff / Technical expertise
    Several academic, private sector and academic partners have committed staff time and technical/scientific expertise
    In-kind contribution
    Most of our partner organizations are providing in-kind support
    No progress reports have been submitted. Please sign in and click here to submit one.
    Action Network
    water logo
    13 March 2023 (start date)
    31 December 2030 (date of completion)
    The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina
    1. Global
    Other beneficiaries

    Anyone, especially children and pregnant women, at risk of being exposed to lead from drinking water – particularly those in marginalized communities; governments; development partners; financial institutions; philanthropic organizations; international organizations; analytical laboratories; private sector; manufacturers; suppliers.

    More information
    South Africa
    South Africa
    Contact Information

    Sid, Senior Scientist / Program Manager