Assessing Access to Water & Sanitation

Many international organizations use access to safe drinking water and safely managed sanitation facilities as a measure of progress against poverty, disease, and death. Access to these services by every man, woman, and child is also considered a human right, not a privilege. Though progress has been made to provide safe drinking water and sanitation to people throughout the world, billions of people still lack access to these services every day.

Drinking Water Sources

According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 90% of the world’s population used at least basic drinking water services, increasing from 88% in 2015.1 If current trends continue, the world will reach 94% coverage by 2030.1

Over the first five years of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), urban drinking water coverage has stayed at 96%, and rural drinking water coverage has increased from 79% to 82%.1 By 2020, 84 countries accomplished universal access to at least basic drinking water services.1 However, many millions of people remain without access to basic drinking water services.

Access to safe drinking water is defined as the percentage of the population having access to and using improved drinking water sources.

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

DEFINITION

DEFINITION

DEFINITION

Safely Managed

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

Safely Managed

Drinking water from an improved source that is accessible at home, available when needed, and free from fecal and priority chemical contamination

DEFINITION

Drinking water from an improved source that is accessible at home, available when needed, and free from fecal and priority chemical contamination

Basic

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

Basic

Drinking water from an improved source, provided collection time is not more than 30 minutes for a round trip, including lining up and waiting

DEFINITION

Drinking water from an improved source, provided collection time is not more than 30 minutes for a round trip, including lining up and waiting

Limited

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

Limited

Drinking water from an improved source, provided collection time exceeds 30 minutes for a round trip, including lining up and waiting

DEFINITION

Drinking water from an improved source, provided collection time exceeds 30 minutes for a round trip, including lining up and waiting

Unimproved

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

Unimproved

Drinking water from an unprotected dug well or unprotected spring

DEFINITION

Drinking water from an unprotected dug well or unprotected spring

Surface

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

Surface

Drinking water directly from a river, dam, lake, pond, stream, canal, or irrigation canal

DEFINITION

Drinking water directly from a river, dam, lake, pond, stream, canal, or irrigation canal

DRINKING WATER SERVICE LEVEL

Difference between improved and unimproved drinking water sources

Improved drinking water sources should, but do not always, provide safe drinking water, and include:

  • Piped household water connection
  • Public standpipe
  • Borehole or tubewell
  • Protected dug well
  • Protected spring
  • Rainwater collection
  • Packaged or delivered water

Unimproved drinking water sources include:

  • Unprotected dug well
  • Unprotected spring
  • Surface water (river, dam, lake, pond, stream, canal, irrigation channel)
  • Vendor-provided water (cart with small tank/drum, tanker truck)
  • Bottled water*
  • Tanker truck water

* Bottled water is not considered improved due to limitations in the potential quantity, not quality, of the water.

Sanitation Facilities

Many countries face challenges in providing adequate sanitation for their entire populations, leaving people at risk for diseases related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).  Worldwide, an estimated 1.7 billion people lack basic sanitation (about 21% of the world’s population).1,2 Basic sanitation is defined as having access to facilities for the safe disposal of human waste (feces and urine), as well as having the ability to maintain hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection, industrial and hazardous waste management, and wastewater treatment and disposal. Around 2.3 billion people (about 29% of the world population) lack access to basic hygiene, which includes access to a handwashing station with soap and water at home.

The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) sanitation target to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to basic sanitation by 2015 was not achieved.3 Today, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) aims for everyone to have “adequate and equitable” sanitation and basic hygiene by 2030.3

Access to sanitation is defined as the percentage of the population which has access and are using improved sanitation facilities.

Difference between improved, shared, and unimproved sanitation systems

Improved sanitation facilities usually ensure separation of human excreta from human contact, and include:

  • Flush or pour-flush toilet/latrine to:
    • Piped sewer system
    • Septic tank
    • Pit latrine
  • Ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine
  • Pit latrine with slab
  • Composting toilet

Shared sanitation facilities are otherwise acceptable improved sanitation facilities that are shared between two or more households. Shared facilities include public toilets.

Unimproved sanitation facilities do not ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact and include:

  • Pit latrine without a slab or platform
  • Hanging latrine
  • Bucket latrine
  • Open defecation in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water or other open spaces, or disposal of human feces with solid waste

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL

DEFINITION

DEFINITION

DEFINITION

Safely Managed

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL

Safely Managed

Use of improved facilities that are not shared with other households and where human waste is safely disposed of on-site or removed and treated off-site

DEFINITION

Use of improved facilities that are not shared with other households and where human waste is safely disposed of on-site or removed and treated off-site

Basic

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL

Basic

Use of improved facilities that are not shared with other households

DEFINITION

Use of improved facilities that are not shared with other households

Limited

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL

Limited

Use of improved facilities that are shared with other households

DEFINITION

Use of improved facilities that are shared with other households

Unimproved

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL

Unimproved

Use of pit latrines without a slab or platform, hanging latrines, or bucket latrines

DEFINITION

Use of pit latrines without a slab or platform, hanging latrines, or bucket latrines

Open Defecation

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL

Open Defecation

No use of any sanitation facility, disposal of human waste in open public places

DEFINITION

No use of any sanitation facility, disposal of human waste in open public places

SANITATION SERVICE LEVEL