Photo: Water tank in Ghana, Arne Hoel, The World Bank

The Guardian: UN tempers news that 89% of global population can access safe drinking water with warning that sanitation MDG is a long way off

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef joint monitoring programme for water supply and sanitation (JMP), between 1990 and 2010 more than 2 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells. Using data from household surveys and censuses, the JMP said at the end of 2010, 89% of the population – 6.1 billion people – now used improved drinking water sources, 1% more than the 88% target contained in millennium development goal (MDG) number seven, set in 2000.

The JMP tempered any celebrations with a warning that the data collected only measured access to improved water sources – those that adequately protect the source from outside contamination – rather than assessed the quality, or reliability of the water supply, or whether water sources were sustainable.

According to The Counsil of Canadians, Maude Barlow confirms that one should read the new statistics carefully.
“One of the chief measurements of success used by the U.N. is to count the number of pipes installed in a given country. But just because there is a pipe does not mean there is clean water coming out of it, and even if there is, it may be very far away, said Barlow, a former senior U.N. advisor on water to the president of the General Assembly in 2008-2009 and co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, a strong advocate of the human right to water. As well, the water may be - and often is - priced at a level where people cannot pay the rate.”

“Further, there are settlements of displaced people and slum dwellers governments do not recognise that are not counted in the country reports even though they have no running water. …UN Habitat says that by 2030, more than half the population of huge urban centres will be slum dwellers with no access to water or sanitation services whatsoever.”

“Most important though is that other U.N. studies contradict these hopeful numbers and in fact, suggest the crisis is deepening as the ecological crisis grows, she added. …And there is the World Bank report that by 2030, water demand will outstrip water supply by 40 percent, she noted.”