Access to clean water and sanitation has been declared a basic human right by the United Nations (UN).
The UN General Assembly resolution, sponsored by Bolivia, received favourable votes from 122 countries, while the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and 37 other nations abstained.
The text "declares the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life".
The resolution laments the fact that 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and that more 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation.
It also notes that roughly two million people die every year from diseases caused by unsafe water and sanitation, most of which were children.
Talking about the move, Maude Barlow, a Canadian water activist, said: "This is a historic day for the world, a big step in the right direction toward the distant goal of a water treaty."
"It is going to mean a huge amount to our movement around the world, to local community groups fighting for water rights, water justice against governments, corporations which are not respecting their rights," Barlow added.