Indicator 45. Percentage of population using safely managed water services, by urban/rural (modified MDG Indicator)

Rationale and definition:

This indicator measures the percentage of the urban and rural population using safely managed drinking water services, as defined by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. This ambitious indicator goes beyond the previous “basic drinking water” indicator as it has been designed to incorporate an assessment of the quality and safety of the water people use.

Households are considered to have access to safely managed drinking water service when they use water from a basic source on premises. The term ‘safely managed’ is proposed to describe a higher threshold of service; for water, this includes measures for protecting supplies and ensuring water is safe to drink.1

Lack of safe drinking water is a major cause of illness and mortality, as a result of exposure to infectious agents, chemical pollutants, and poor hygiene. Inadequate access to water in the home is also a source of economic disadvantage by requiring large commitment of human resources to fetching and carrying water.2

A basic drinking water source is a source or delivery point that by nature of its construction or through active intervention is protected from outside contamination with fecal matter. Basic drinking water sources can include: piped drinking water supply on premises; public taps/stand posts; tube well/borehole; protected dug well; protected spring; rainwater; and bottled water (when another basic source is used for hand washing, cooking, or other basic personal hygiene purposes).3


By urban/rural. Further opportunities for disaggregation to be reviewed.

Comments and limitations:

The monitoring methodology for this indicator is ready and being piloted in several countries. Where the data is unavailable, we suggest that countries may, on an interim basis, continue to use the “basic drinking water” indictor, defined as the percentage of population using a basic source with a total collection time of 30 minutes or less for a round trip including queuing.

Since this indicator is quite ambitious and the objective is the progressive elimination of inequalities in access, an intermediary indicator to measure universal basic access by 2030 could be “Percentage of population using basic safe water.”

In addition, this measure does not fully measure the quality of services, i.e. accessibility, quantity, and affordability.4

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Household surveys and administrative data.

Potential lead agency or agencies:

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) collects data for this indicator. To the extent possible, the collection and monitoring mechanisms should be fully integrated in the national statistical systems.

  1. Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) (2014). WASH POST-2015: proposed targets and indicators for drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene.

  2. UNESCO Water World Assessment Programme.

  3. WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (2013). “Post-2015 WASH Targets and Indicators.”

  4. WSSCC (2014).