Geographical inequalities in drinking water in the Solomon Islands

Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 seeks to “by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water”, which is challenging particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Pacific Island Countries (PIC). We report drinking water sources and services in the Solomon Islands and examine geographical inequalities.

Based on two quantitative baseline datasets of n = 1,598 rural and n = 1,068 urban households, we analyzed different drinking water variables (source type, collection time, amount, use, perceived quality, storage, treatment) and a composite index, drinking water service level. We stratified data by urban and rural areas and by province, mapped, and contextualized them.

There are substantive rural–urban drinking water inequalities in the Solomon Islands. Overall, urban households are more likely to: use improved drinking water sources, need less time to collect water, collect more water, store their water more safely, treat water prior to consumption, perceive their water quality as better and have an at least basic drinking water service than rural households. There are also provincial and center-periphery inequalities in drinking water access, with more centrally located provinces using piped water supplies and more distant and remote provinces using rainwater and surface water as their primary source. There are also inter-national inequalities. Out of all PICs, the Solomon Islands have among the lowest access to basic drinking water services: 92% of urban and 55% of rural households. Of all SIDS, PICs are least serviced.

This study shows that drinking water inequality is a critical issue, and highlights that all identified dimensions of inequality – rural–urban, provincial, center-periphery and inter-national – need to be explicitly recognized and addressed and included in pro-equity monitoring, policy and programming efforts by the Solomon Islands Government and stakeholders to reduce inequalities as per the Agenda 2030.

Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 seeks to “by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water”, which is challenging particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Pacific Island Countries (PIC). We report drinking water sources and services in the Solomon Islands and examine geographical inequalities.

Based on two quantitative baseline datasets of n = 1,598 rural and n = 1,068 urban households, we analyzed different drinking water variables (source type, collection time, amount, use, perceived quality, storage, treatment) and a composite index, drinking water service level. We stratified data by urban and rural areas and by province, mapped, and contextualized them.

There are substantive rural–urban drinking water inequalities in the Solomon Islands. Overall, urban households are more likely to: use improved drinking water sources, need less time to collect water, collect more water, store their water more safely, treat water prior to consumption, perceive their water quality as better and have an at least basic drinking water service than rural households. There are also provincial and center-periphery inequalities in drinking water access, with more centrally located provinces using piped water supplies and more distant and remote provinces using rainwater and surface water as their primary source. There are also inter-national inequalities. Out of all PICs, the Solomon Islands have among the lowest access to basic drinking water services: 92% of urban and 55% of rural households. Of all SIDS, PICs are least serviced.

This study shows that drinking water inequality is a critical issue, and highlights that all identified dimensions of inequality – rural–urban, provincial, center-periphery and inter-national – need to be explicitly recognized and addressed and included in pro-equity monitoring, policy and programming efforts by the Solomon Islands Government and stakeholders to reduce inequalities as per the Agenda 2030.

Geographical inequalities in drinking water in the Solomon Islands. C. Anthonj, J.W. Tracy, L. Fleming, K.F Shields, W.M Tikoisuva, E. Kelly, M.B Thakkar, R. Cronk, M. Overmars, J. Bartram. 2020.  Science of the Total Environment. 712. doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135241