Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Water MDG met at the global level

We had good news this World Water Day--at the global level, the Millennium Development Goal for access to improved water supply has been met, some 2.5 years ahead of schedule. During the period 1990-2012 more than 2 billion people gained access to improved water supply services (as per the Joint Monitoring Program definitions). Quite a feat. More information here:

Water sector specialists were quick to point out that 780 million people (roughly a tenth of the world's population) are still lacking access to this basic service, relying for their water supplies on rivers, ponds, unprotected springs and wells. What hasn't been pointed out is that more than three times this number--2.5 billion, or ~36% of the global population--are now considered to have access, although they have pretty low levels of service, e.g., a congested handpump sited a few hundred yards from their home. Such non-networked water sources have, in many cases, not been shown to reduce infectious disease or confer time savings as compared to unimproved sources. Will ticking the 'has access' box for these households reduce the pressure on governments to continue working for higher levels of service?

Fortunately there is a vigorous debate underway about the definitions used to monitor progress in the sector post-2015. It is tough to identify valid and reliable indicators of access to improved water supply that can be feasibly monitored on a regular basis. It is even tougher to figure out who should pay for collecting those data, from which so many institutions and organizations benefit.