Monitoring SDG6 on water and sanitation

Why monitor

How do water and sanitation data add value to countries?

Credible and timely water and sanitation data provide numerous social, economic, and environmental benefits in both public and private sectors, namely:

  • Stronger accountability: Data can communicate that work is being done and progress is happening. Data can enable greater transparency, which reduces the incidence of waste and corruption.
  • Attract commitment and investments: Data can quantify problems and make it easier to communicate needs for political commitment and public and private investments
  • Evidence-based decision-making: Data can inform policy- and decision-makers of where to focus efforts and which solutions that are most effective, to ensure the greatest possible gains with existing resources.
  • Leaving no one behind: Disaggregated data can help identify specific groups or areas with unmet needs and higher levels of risk, to which interventions can be targeted.

Further, water and sanitation monitoring involves a wide range of stakeholders, across sectors and levels of government. Bringing together these stakeholders, and their data, multiplies the value of the data. As such, integration across indicators can bring us:

  • More efficient use of monitoring resources: Cross-sectoral coordination and collaboration can create synergies in existing monitoring efforts, increasing data availability and reducing duplication/reporting burden.
  • More holistic policies and integrated resources management: A comprehensive data set can allow for better informed policy and investment decisions that account for synergies and trade-offs between social, economic and environmental development objectives. It can also enable an integrated management approach which can reduce institutional fragmentation.

How can the global indicators be used?

It’s important to recognize that different types of indicators serve different purposes.

The global indicators are broadly defined to track progress towards the SDGs at the global level, and each country is asked to provide one national value (aggregate) for each global indicator. Having one national value can act as a very powerful message, emphasizing the need for strategic focus and internal and international investment. It can also be used to communicate progress to the general public, to ensure accountability.

  • For example: In 2015, only 40 % of the wastewater in Country X was safely treated, the lowest performance in Region Y. In 2020, thanks to strong national and international commitments, 50 % of the wastewater was safely treated.

For policy- and decision-making and planning at national and subnational levels, more detailed information is needed to prioritize, optimize and plan interventions. The global indicators are still useful but the data need to be disaggregated spatially and temporally, by sector, by subcomponent and by different socioeconomic strata.

  • For example: In City X, 60 % of the population uses on-site facilities, of which only 30 % are safely managed. The situation is particularly bad in District Y, where only 5 % is safely managed. The local government thus focuses on improving on-site facilities (rather than building an expensive treatment plant), starting with District Y. The city is also home to many hazardous industries. To relieve the existing secondary-level treatment plant, and the river it discharges to, the local government invests in the stricter enforcement of pollution laws and discharge permits (rather than building an expensive treatment plant). The enforcement efforts are particularly strict during the dry season, when the receiving river has a low base flow and is more sensitive to high pollution loads.