Monitoring Access to Safe Drinking-water as Part of the Millennium Development Goals

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) encapsulated a global agreement to tackle the pervasive health, social and economic effects of poverty. Their influence on national policy and development practice has been profound. From their first formulation, the MDGs included a target for access to safe drinking-water. After several revisions, this target, designated Target 7c, is now to reduce by half, between 1990 and 2015, “the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report progress towards this target through their Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. However, the functioning of the Joint Monitoring Programme and the appropriateness of some of the indicators currently used to monitor access to safe drinking-water and the pace of improvement have been questioned. A key concern has been the inclusion of the word safe in the target and whether or not the data on water quality available are suitable for monitoring access to safe drinking-water up to 2015, as well as for providing a retrospective estimate of access at baseline in 1990.

Accounting for Water Quality in Monitoring Access to Safe Drinking-water as Part of the Millennium Development Goals: Lessons from Five Countries. R. Bain, S. W. Gundry, J. A. Wright, H. Yang, S. Pedley, J. K. Bartram. 2012. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, pp. 228–235A. doi.org/10.2471/BLT.11.094284