Bain, Robert, Gundry, Stephen, Wright, J.A., Yang, Hong, Pedley, Steve and Bartram, Jamie
Accounting for water quality in monitoring access to safe
drinking-water as part of the Millennium Development Goals:
lessons from five countries
Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 90, (3), . (doi:10.2471/BLT.11.094284).
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Objective: To take account of source water quality in estimating access to safe drinking water under Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target 7c and adjust reported progress.
Methods: For five countries, we adjust the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) methods for reporting baseline and progress towards MDG Target 7c by incorporating the results from nationally representative surveys of the microbial and chemical quality of improved water sources. We cross-checked our application of these methods with JMP.
Findings: Accounting for microbial and chemical compliance with a subset of WHO water quality guidelines as part of the MDG indicator substantially reduces reported access to ‘safe’ water in 2008 for four of the five countries: Ethiopia (11%), Nicaragua (16%), Nigeria (15%), and Tajikistan (7%). In these countries, the mix of improved sources includes substantial numbers of unsafe sources that have poor water quality. Adjusting for microbial compliance has the larger effect.
Conclusion: Although our analysis cannot be extrapolated to global scale, it suggests that the current MDG indicator overestimates levels of access to safe water and that in some countries the over-estimation is substantial. In future monitoring developments, separately capturing the effects of access and water quality would represent a significant improvement.
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