Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sustainable Development Goals: Proposed stand-alone goal for water & sanitation, refining indicators

Global targets related to water and sanitation access were comprised within Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7 of "ensuring environmental sustainability." For the post-2015 period, a more focused goal of "ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all" was proposed on July 19. The text of this goal and associated targets in the current proposal is:

Proposed goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
6.1 by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
6.2 by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
6.3 by 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and increasing recycling and safe reuse by x% globally
6.4 by 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity, and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
6.5 by 2030 implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
6.6 by 2020 protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
6.a by 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water and sanitation related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
6.b support and strengthen the participation of local communities for improving water and sanitation management
(The complete proposal can be found here.)

These goals and targets will undergo further revision in the months ahead. Equally important is the finalization of associated definitions and indicators for monitoring during the SDG period. What do we mean by "adequate and equitable sanitation," "untreated wastewater," and "sustainable withdrawals"? How should these ideas be measured for global monitoring? The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) recently released a draft report outlining proposed indicators for the 17 SDG targets under consideration, but it has lots of "to be determined" placeholders, particularly regarding industrial waste discharges, wastewater/biosolids re-use, and water resources management.

The good news is that the debate over definitions and indicators is happening now, before the launch of the SDG period on January 1, 2016. As SDSN Executive Director Guido Schmidt-Traub noted in a recent blog post, the indicators used to monitor progress toward the MDGs were finalized several years after the adoption of the goals. Let's hope that the WASH community can agree on targets, indicators, and definitions that are both ambitious yet practical and useful for decision-makers.