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Interconnected Water Sustainability: Mapping SDG Linkages in the United States

SDG Interlinkages

SDG Interlinkages refer to the interconnectedness and mutual influences among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs, adopted by the United Nations, are a set of global objectives addressing various social, economic, and environmental challenges. Interlinkages recognize that progress in one goal can positively or negatively affect the achievement of other goals. Understanding these interconnections is crucial for creating comprehensive and effective strategies to achieve sustainable development.


Synergies in the context of SDGs refer to situations where actions or policies designed to advance progress in one goal simultaneously contribute positively to another goal. Synergies imply that efforts aimed at achieving one objective can create additional benefits for related goals, reinforcing the overall impact and efficiency of sustainable development initiatives.


Tradeoffs, on the other hand, involve situations where pursuing progress in one SDG may have adverse effects on the achievement of another. In some cases, addressing a particular goal may require making choices that could hinder progress in a different area. Recognizing and managing tradeoffs is essential for making informed decisions and avoiding unintended negative consequences in the pursuit of sustainable development. Striking a balance between goals is crucial for creating comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

Synergies and tradeoffs are mapped globally by the KnowSDGs Platform by the European Commission, revealing an international common pattern. However, the target status in each country is different at different time points. In the graph below, the green color, yellow color, and red color represent on-track, in-review, and off-track respectively. The grey color indicates insufficient data available for the target, where the interlinkages still apply.

Evolution of Synergies and Tradeoffs: Analyzing the Dynamics of Target 6.1 in 2023 Compared to 2019

SDG 6, dedicated to Clean Water and Sanitation, encompasses the global commitment to ensuring universal access to safe water and sanitation by 2030. Target 6.1 functions as a specific target within this goal, focusing on detailed objectives to address issues such as water scarcity and quality. The United Nations emphasizes a multifaceted approach to achieving global development goals through these targeted initiatives.

Target 6.1:

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

2019 Synergies: 54

In 2019, Target 6.1 exhibited synergies with 54 targets across all SDGs.

2019 Tradeoffs: 10

Target 6.1 encountered tradeoffs with 10 specific targets, namely Target 2.2, 2.3, 3.2, 3.9, 7.2, 8.1, 11.5, 14.1, 14.3, and 15.1.

2023 Synergies: 67

In 2023, Target 6.1 exhibited synergies with 67 targets across all SDGs.

2023 Tradeoffs: 9

Target 6.1 encountered tradeoffs with 9 specific targets, namely Target 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.b, 6.2, 6.3, 7.1, 7.2, and 15.1.

Exploring the Nine Tradeoffs in 2023: Uncovering Dynamics and Implications

Targets from SDG 2 (Zero Hunger):

- 2.1: Ensuring access to adequate food.

- 2.2: Ending malnutrition.

- 2.3: Doubling agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers.

- 2.b: Correcting and preventing trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets.

The use of water in agriculture for increasing productivity (2.3) might compete with the availability of water for domestic use (6.1).

Targets from SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation):

- 6.2: Achieving access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all.

- 6.3: Improving water quality, reducing pollution, and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals.

Balancing the need for universal access to sanitation (6.2) with the goals of water quality improvement (6.3) might pose challenges, as focusing on one could potentially impact the other.

Targets from SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy):

- 7.1: Ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy.

- 7.2: Increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Depending on the energy sources used, achieving energy access and affordability (7.1) might have implications for water use and quality (6.1, 6.3).

Target from SDG 15 (Life on Land):

- 15.1: Ensuring the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems.

Balancing terrestrial ecosystem conservation (15.1) with water use for various purposes (6.1) may require careful management to avoid negative impacts.


In 2023, Target 6.1 shows synergies with 67 targets and tradeoffs with 9 targets, while in 2019, the numbers were 54 synergies and 10 tradeoffs. Over time Target 6.1 of gaining universal access to affordable drinking water has been creating more synergies and fewer tradeoffs. Interpreting tradeoffs involves recognizing potential conflicts in resource allocation, policy priorities, and environmental considerations. It underscores the need for an integrated and sustainable approach to development that considers the interconnectedness of these goals and targets. Policymakers should strive to develop strategies that balance synergies and tradeoffs to achieve comprehensive and sustainable outcomes.

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