In a statement to mark World Water Day, Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said more than 1.6 million people die each year because they lack access to safe water and proper sanitation. Most of the victims are children under the age of 5, Chan said.
One of the UN's Millennium Development Goals aims to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.
The WHO said efforts were still on track to reach this goal, but that increasing water scarcity seriously threatened progress.
In one of many events marking World Water Day today, the $150,000 Stockholm Water Prize was awarded to U.S. researcher Perry McCarty. He was recognized for his "pioneeering work" in the field of wastewater treatment.(with agency reports)