Globally, the proportion of people living without improved drinking water was halved between 1990 and 2010 and therefore the Millennium Development Goal was met, but inequities remain between and within countries. Eight out of 10 people who are still without access to improved drinking water sources live in rural areas. Countries are now aiming for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which calls for universal and equitable access by 2030, and represents a far more ambitious challenge at a time when many rural water systems in developing countries are not functioning or performing below expected levels. However, the rural water sub-sector has to date not yet developed adequate quantitative insights into either the magnitude or the nature of the problem of poor performance and sustainability of rural water supplies.
In response to this global challenge, the World Bank contracted Aguaconsult, together with IRC of the Netherlands, to research existing frameworks and metrics used to assess rural water service delivery. A range of indicator sets from different countries and development partners were analysed, including 20 national monitoring systems and 20 monitoring frameworks from donors. The study also took into account previous studies conducted on rural water functionality and sustainability, and particular attention was paid to the SIASAR model from Latin America. On the basis of this set of empirical evidence, the team developed a set of standard global indicators to measure different characteristics of rural water services. This briefing note provides a summary of this recent study, the methodology, main findings and the proposed metrics; it closes with a discussion on next steps and ways forward to disseminate the findings and engage with key global and national sector monitoring initiatives.