Natalia Gutierrez
July 20, 2018

UN-Water has released a new report on Water and Sanitation ahead of the High-level Political Forum for Sustanainable Development (HLPF) which presents, for each target, the latest data available for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 global indicators. The report sought to inform discussions among Member States during the HLPF (9 July -18 July 2018) in New York. The HLPF Forum reviewed progress especially on G6, G7, G11, G12, G15 and G17; you can see the Official Programme here.

The key message of this report is that the world will miss the SDG6 targets by 2030 at current rates of progress. It also highlights that only 50 percent of countries have comparable baseline estimates for most SDG 6 global indicators, making it difficult to track progress. It is essential to “harmonize methods and standards”, and establish a common understanding of how to assess Means of Implementation (MoI) across SDG 6. In addition to this report, UN-Water has also set up a webpage with examples of countries sharing their experiences.

Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) had provided some comments on the draft report which was made available by UN-Water earlier this year. By and large these comments still hold – you can find out about what we said here and our take on how the report addresses sustainability of services, accountability, self-supply, capacity development, water and energy, groundwater and public participation.

So, what does the final report say? It compiles data and information available on the SDG6 Targets, including:
Target 6.1: Achieve access to safe and affordable drinking water: There are still 844 million people who lack access to basic water services, and 2.1 billion people who lack water that is accessible, available when needed and free from contamination. The report highlights that extending access to safe drinking water for all is a “huge challenge” that will not be achieved if there is no increase in “investment from governments and other sources” and a “strengthening in institutional arrangements” for managing and regulating drinking water.

Target 6.2: Achieve access to sanitation and hygiene and end open defecation: There are still 2.3 billion people who lack access to basic sanitation services, and 4.5 billion people who lack safely managed sanitation services. Only 27 per cent of the population in least developed countries has access to soap and water for handwashing. Extending universal access to sanitation and hygiene won’t be achieved if there is not an increase in “investment and a strengthening of the capacity of local and national authorities” for managing and regulating sanitation systems.

Target 6.3: Improve water quality, wastewater treatment and safe reuse: Freshwater pollution is prevalent and increasing in many parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia. The lack of water quality monitoring in many parts of the world does not allow for an exact global estimate of water pollution.

Target 6.4: Increase water-use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies: Nowadays more than 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress. The agriculture sector is the largest user of freshwater; it uses 70 per cent of global water withdrawals. In the report, some techniques to save water have been presented like “increasing productivity of food crops”, “improving water management practices and technologies”, “growing fewer water intensive crops in water scarce regions”, “reducing food loss and waste”, and “importing food grown from water rich countries”.

Target 6.5: Implement integrated water resources management (IWRM) including transboundary cooperation: While all countries have at least started implementing various aspects of IWRM, only modest progress has been made in terms of implementing a fully integrated approach. The average national proportion of transboundary basins covered by an operational arrangement is only 59 per cent.

Target 6.6: Protect and restore water-related ecosystems: current baseline data of the indicator “do not allow for a proper picture of the state of freshwater ecosystems”, which is why further detailed data including “quantitative, geospatial and qualitative” data are necessary.

The report also looks at the targets related to the means of implementation of SDG6:
Target 6.a: Expand international cooperation and capacity-building: 80 per cent of Member States have insufficient finance to meet national WASH targets. The current indicator based on ODA (Official Development Assistance) does not reflect all elements of the target. That is why it is necessary to complement with additional information relating to “capacity development, human resources and other elements”.

Target 6.b: Support stakeholder participation: In order to empower marginalized groups and sustainable service delivery, “local communities have to participate in water and sanitation management”. But even if the current indicator monitors the existence of policies and procedures for local community participation, it does not show if “the participation is genuine or meaningful”. This links to the recent report published by our partners End Water Poverty, Coalition Eau, Watershed Empowering Citizens Consortium, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and with the support of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), on accountability mechanisms for SDG6, and which was the focus of a recent RWSN webinar in English and Spanish.

In conclusion, the UN-Water report focuses on the enablers of the SDG6, highlighting that:
“Inequalities must be eliminated”. It is important to have data in order to identify disadvantage and provide services to groups like women, children, poor, indigenous people and rural communities. You can find some recent RWSN webinars on Making Water Work for Women, and Making Rights Real for rural communities here.

“Private financing, promoting blended finance and microfinance” should be developed in order to optimize domestic and public finance. You can see a recent RWSN webinar on “grown up” finance for rural water here.

This article was first published here.

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