More Money and Better Service Delivery: A Winning Combination for Achieving Drinking Water and Sanitation Targets

In addition to money, strong institutions, accountability and mechanisms that turn investment into effective services for people who need it, are critical to achieving universal water access and safe human waste management, according to a report by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) in partnership with the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation.

Today, 2.4 billion people still live without access to improved sanitation, about one billion people defecate in the open, and more than 640,000 people lack improved drinking water sources. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation (SDG 6), countries of the world committed themselves to change this situation over the next 15 years not only by reducing to zero the number of unserved population but also upgrading the current levels of water, sanitation and hygiene WASH (6.1 and 6.2) services[1].

The study, The Costs of Meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal Targets on Drinking Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, reveals that current levels of investment are likely to be sufficient to provide basic water and sanitation services[2] for all by 2030. If the current global expenditure, estimated at around $28.4 billion per year, were to be targeted properly, every household in the world would have access to drinking water, an adequate toilet and a suitable place to wash their hands by 2030[3].

But the SDG water and sanitation targets 6.1 and 6.2 go beyond basic services. They set the goal for a world where all people always have access to drinking water nearby and their fecal wastes are safely managed. The total cost of providing WASH services at these levels is estimated at around $114 billion per year, three times the current investment levels.

“Considering the amount of estimated investment needed, efforts to meet the SDG targets on drinking-water and sanitation will require not only additional public funding, but also greater service efficiency and increased engagement from civil society and the private sector,” according to WSP Senior Economist Guy Hutton, the lead author of the study.

“There is no doubt higher levels of financing are needed; however, universal and sustainable WASH services also require strengthened institutions and better policies,” according to Jyoti Shukla, WSP’s Senior Manager. “Countries need to assess the best way to spend their resources, which infrastructure to build, how to operate the services, what funds are available, and what tariff structure to adopt while also remaining sensitive to affordability. Institutional strengthening is fundamental to ensure that investments translate into effective service delivery over time.”

In order to encourage deeper analysis, the report includes results and analysis by world regions. The underlying country data are available via the World Bank website; the main purpose is not to replace national figures and plans but to provide key inputs for governments to define the most suitable WASH services for all.

The publications and data sets are available for download here.

The Water and Sanitation Program is a multi-donor partnership, part of the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice, supporting poor people in obtaining affordable, safe, and sustainable access to water and sanitation services.

[1] The Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6) is comprised of 8 sub targets that cover a wide range of issues such as environment, management, and transboundary cooperation. This study focuses on the sub targets related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (6.1 and 6.2).
[2] Basic water supply includes an improved community water source within a 30-minute round-trip; basic sanitation includes an improved toilet; and basic hygiene includes a hand-washing station with soap and water for every household.
[3] Note that the study covers 140 middle- and low-income countries and off-track developed countries. OECD countries are largely excluded.