Current Date:

Friday, 24 November 2017
 

Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (3)

(UNICEF 2017 Report) - Basic services: towards universal access



The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP) has produced regular estimates of national, regional and global progress on drinking water; sanitation and hygiene (WASH) since 1990.


Safely managed drinking water services represent an ambitious new global service norm that forms part of the new JMP ladder for enhanced global monitoring of household drinking water services (Section 2). The JMP estimates that 5.2 billion people used safely managed drinking water services in 2015. For this first global baseline report, national estimates were available for 96 countries. The coverage in these countries ranged from 6 per cent to 100 per cent of the national population. The JMP only produces national estimates when data are available for at least 50 per cent of the relevant population.
The threshold for regional and global estimates is 30 percent population coverage18. Regional estimates are currently available for four out of eight SDG regions (Figure 32). Six regions had estimates for urban areas, and just one region had estimates for rural areas in 2015. In regions where nationallevel estimates could be made, coverage of safely managed services varied from 24 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa to 94 per cent in Northern America and Europe, and was generally higher in urban areas, where two out of three people with safely managed drinking water services reside. One third (34 per cent) of the population in Least Developed Countries used safely managed services in 2015.
Global estimates are based on the population-weighted average of estimates for rural and urban populations. It is estimated that 55 per cent of the rural population and 85 per cent of the urban population use safely managed services.
The greatest disparities in service levels relate to accessibility and quality, which are 25 and 34 percentage points higher, respectively, in urban areas. Urban areas account for three out of five people with improved sources accessible on premises, three out of five people with water available when needed, and two out of three people with water free from contamination.
Of the 2.1 billion people lacking safely managed drinking water services in 2015, 127 million used basic services, 263 million used limited services, 423 million used unimproved sources and 159 million used surface water.
Safely managed drinking water is defined as use of an improved drinking water source that is located on premises, available when needed and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination. Household surveys and censuses remain the primary source of information on the different types of facilities that households use, but information on service levels is available from both household surveys and administrative sources, including regulators. The JMP first estimates the population using piped and non-piped supplies and then integrates information on the accessibility, availability and quality of drinking water from piped and non-piped supplies.
In order to meet the standard for safely managed drinking water, a household must use an improved source type that meets three criteria. First, the facility should be accessible on premises (located within the dwelling, yard or plot). Second, water should be available when needed (sufficient water in the last week or available for at least 12 hours per day). Third, water supplied should be free from contamination (compliant with standards for faecal and priority chemical contamination). As the three elements are interrelated, the JMP calculates the population using safely managed drinking water services based on the minimum value for each domain (rural, urban, national).
National data sources for each element are selected in consultation with national authorities, but many countries currently lack one or more elements for at least part of the population. The JMP will only make an estimate for safely managed drinking water where data are available on water quality and at least one other element for at least half of the relevant population. Where estimates for safely managed services are not yet available, the JMP only reports the population using at least a basic level of service.
Coverage of safely managed drinking water varied widely among the 96 countries with estimates available in 2015.
The proportion using improved sources on premises ranged from 6 per cent to 100 per cent, the proportion with water available when needed ranged from 51 per cent to 100 per cent, and the proportion with water free from contamination ranged from 13 per cent to 100 per cent. Figure 36 shows the relative importance of each element in determining national estimates of safely managed drinking water for each country.
Accessibility, availability and quality vary widely in the 96 countries with national estimates for safely managed drinking water services.
The JMP indicator for basic sanitation services (population using improved sanitation facilities, which are not shared) refers to the types of facilities used by households but does not take account of excreta management. Recognizing that management of excreta along the entire sanitation chain is essential to protect communities and children from pathogen exposure, international consultations during the development of the 2030 Agenda recommended that downstream management of excreta — in both sewered and non-sewered systems – should be reflected in indicators for national and global monitoring.
Safely managed sanitation services represent an ambitious new global service norm, which forms part of the new JMP ladder for enhanced global monitoring of sanitation services and is defined as the population using an improved sanitation facility that is not shared with other households, and where excreta are disposed of in situ or transported and treated off-site. For this first global SDG report, national estimates of safely managed sanitation services were made for 84 countries and ranged from 9 per cent to 100 percent.
The JMP makes country estimates for safely managed sanitation when information on excreta management is available for at least 50 per cent of the population using the dominant type of improved sanitation facility (sewer connections or on-site sanitation systems). Regional and global estimates are made when such data are available for at least 30 per cent of the relevant population.
In 2015, national-level estimates were available for five of the eight SDG regions, for four regions in urban areas, and for three regions in rural areas. Coverage of safely managed services was consistently higher in urban areas and only reached 15 per cent of the population in rural areas of Least Developed Countries.
Where data on excreta management are available, some of these basic services can meet the criteria for safely managed sanitation services. Twenty-six per cent of the population used toilets connected through sewers to a facility which provided wastewater treatment, and were thus classified as having safely managed sanitation services.
Another 13 per cent used improved on-site facilities where wastes are disposed of in situ. This counts as a form of treatment and is also classified as safely managed. Where data on excreta management are not available, the entire population using improved facilities that are not shared is classified as having at least basic services.
There are three main ways in which households can meet the criteria for a safely managed sanitation service. Households using toilets where the excreta are flushed out of the household, transported through sewers and treated at a treatment plant, count as wastewater treated off-site. For households using toilets or latrines connected to septic tanks or pits, the criteria are met when excreta are either emptied and treated off-site, or remain stored and are considered treated and disposed of in situ.
This report presents for the first time disaggregated estimates of the populations using sewer connections and on-site sanitation systems (see Section 3), since they lead to different kinds of excreta management. Globally, the population using sewer connections and on-site sanitation are evenly split, at 38 per cent each. In four of the SDG regions, on-site systems are more common.
If data on wastewater treatment are available, and sewer connections are more prevalent than on-site sanitation systems, the JMP can make an estimate of safely managed sanitation services. If on-site sanitation is more prevalent, however, data on wastewater treatment are not sufficient to produce an estimate of safely managed sanitation and some information on treatment of excreta from on-site systems is required. The collection of reliable statistics on treatment and disposal of excreta is a prerequisite for safe management, so if countries do not have any data it is not possible to estimate the proportion of on-site facilities which are safely managed.

Sewer systems

Two out of five people globally (38 per cent), two thirds of those in urban areas (63 per cent) and 1 in 10 in rural areas (9 per cent) report having sewer connections.25 These households are classified as having safely managed sanitation services if the toilets are not shared, and if the wastes flushed out of the household reach a treatment plant and undergo at least a minimum level of treatment:
- primary treatment where the effluent is discharged through a long ocean outfall,
- secondary treatment, or
- tertiary or advanced treatment.
Not all excreta flushed down toilets actually reach treatment plants. Toilet lines can connect to open drains or directly discharge to surface water instead of reaching sewers, or sewage can leak or overflow out of sewers and pumping stations before reaching treatment plants. Where data are available on failures in containment and transport, for example ‘flush to an open drain’, these households are classified as not having safely managed services. In the absence of data, however, the JMP assumes that excreta from households that report having sewer connections actually reach a sewer line, and are transported as wastewater to a treatment plant.
Data on wastewater treatment at the national level were available from countries, representing 88 per cent of the global population with sewer connections. Information was collected from national authorities, including statistical offices and sanitation regulators, often published in reports such as annual statistical or environmental yearbooks. In some cases, data from regional or international databases were used. In 76 of these countries, more people use sewer connections than on-site sanitation. National estimates of safely managed sanitation could be made for these countries, plus an additional eight where data on excreta management in on-site systems were available.
Globally, three quarters of sewer-borne wastewater (73 per cent) is estimated to undergo at least secondary. treatment. By applying this ratio to the population with sewer connections (2.8 billion), and adjusting for sharing (given that 5 per cent of people using toilets with sewer connections share them), 1.9 billion people with sewer connections are classified as having safely managed sanitation services.
A total of 750 million people, over 90 percent of whom live in urban areas, have sewer connections that do not receive the minimum level of treatment specified above. Many more are connected to wastewater treatment plants that do not provide effective treatment or comply with effluent requirements.


On-site sanitation

A third of the global population (38 percent), a quarter of the urban population (29 per cent), and half of the rural population (48 per cent) report using improved sanitation systems such as septic tanks or improved latrines, where excreta are stored on-site in pits or tanks. Households using such on-site systems can be considered to have safely managed sanitation services if the facilities are not shared, and if excreta are either disposed of in situ or emptied, transported and treated off-site.
In a number of countries, household surveys have asked people if their latrines or septic tanks have ever been emptied, and in most cases the respondents report that they have not. When storage facilities have not been emptied, the excreta are considered to be treated and disposed of in situ, and therefore safely managed. Excreta that are emptied from storage facilities and buried on premises are also considered safely managed. Such burial after emptying accounted for the majority of safely managed sanitation in rural areas of Bangladesh and Niger. There are cases where storage facilities are made to leak intentionally, to avoid the need for emptying. In principle, these should not be counted as safely managed, but data are rarely available on effective containment in latrines and septic tanks. Excreta that are emptied and transported off-site can be classified as safely managed if there is information on the proportion of excreta that reach treatment plants and the type of treatment that they receive.
Some on-site sanitation facilities are specifically designed to facilitate safe management of excreta (such as twin-vault alternating pit latrines). In China, such systems are called ‘harmless sanitary latrines’ and account for two thirds of on-site facilities in rural areas.