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SDG6; New Water Indicator

Adding to existing MDG drinking water data for the SDG world

Libbet Loughnan's picture
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This blog is part of a series accompanying the Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2017In response to frequent questions from those trying to gain familiarity with the monitoring method of SDG target 6.1, we use this blog to elaborate on the overview presented in the Atlas.

Here we are looking just at the new water indicator: 'The percentage of the population using safely managed drinking water services', defined as an MDG-style improved drinking water source, which is:

  • located on premises
  • available when needed, and
  • compliant with fecal (zero E.coli in 100mL sample of the household's source of drinking water) and priority chemical standards

These changes reflect evolving global consensus on what can best be monitored to support development. They are designed to denote opportunities: representing the full water cycle and fecal-oral chain, quantifying issues that were less visible through MDG-lenses, and informing action to meet domestic targets as well as the World Bank Group Twin Goals and the SDGs. That is, so long as the data is collected.

Until household surveys integrate the additional measurements, data constraints mean that only limited insights are yet possible on how the shift to the SDG framework will play out in various countries. As outlined in a recent blog, an initiative led by the World Bank's Water and Poverty Equity Global Practices - called the Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Poverty Diagnostic - is supporting rollout of the new SDG measurements. The Diagnostics have helped not just highlight evidence gaps but also successfully developed partnerships collecting critical SDG measurements in Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Nigeria, DRC, and West Bank and Gaza, as well as Ecuador.

The Diagnostic has also been engaging with countries to help relate their historical data to the new framework. As with the data production, this is mutually informed by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), helping ease uptake of the results in official SDG monitoring.

There are straightforward elements to this: MDG-style "improved" drinking water, the "on premises" component of the MDG-period "piped water on premises", contribute some of the building blocks of SDG classification "safely managed".

Many countries also have some data on whether a drinking water source was within 30 minutes roundtrip versus farther afield. Although not part of the binary SDG indicator, this will routinely be used to distinguish "basic" from worse drinking water. Imagine that your daily life relied on water fetched from over 30 mins away!

"Available when needed" and "compliant with fecal and priority chemical standard" are new to the global monitoring framework.