Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals, released in 2015, involves ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The indicators that will be used to track progress were agreed upon in March 2016, and it will require real change within this sector to achieve them by the 2030 deadline.

While there are shifts towards greater equity in access, many of the poor are still being left out in the cold. Unfortunately it seems that while many countries did achieve the millennium development goal of halving the number of people without access to water, they achieved this by providing access to improved water sources for the poor in urban areas while mainly neglecting the rural areas.

The focus now needs to be on extending access to water, sanitation and hygiene services to the most marginalised, which are also those who are least able to afford to pay. The target to make water affordable for all is unfortunately not currently captured in the SDG indicators.

By the end of the MDG period it was realised that that improved water sources did not equate to safe drinking water. This was proven by a rapid assessment of drinking-water quality in five countries – Ethiopia, Jordan, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Tajikistan, which showed that there is a large gap between improved water sources and safe water. More than 50% of the protected dug wells and around 35% of protected springs and boreholes did not provide safe water.

This showed that the proportion of the population with access to safe water was between 7-16% lower than estimated based on the MDG indicator when water quality was taken into consideration. Going forward, one of the major outcomes from the SDG for water is that millions more people across the globe will have their water sources monitored, with increasing pressure on those that provide water services to ensure water isn’t just available, that it is also safe to drink.

The SDG also includes focus on access to a handwashing facility at home with soap and water and on addressing the whole faecal sludge management chain.

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