Those of us lucky enough to live in the industrialized world typically take for granted simple things like running water, flush toilets and going to the bathroom in privacy. Yet, 750 million people have no access to any type of basic source of drinking water, 2.5 billion â€“ almost half the developing world â€“ lack even a basic latrine and 1 billion have to resort to what is politely known as open defecation.
The good news is that we have been improving - over the past 25 years, more than 2 billion have gained access to better water and almost 2 billion to sanitation.
What about water and sanitation for everyone?
As reported by Reuters, this is a challenging but beneficial target with returns between $3 and $6 for every dollar spent.
By 2030, this will mean providing an extra 2.3 billion people with water, through installing more wells, boreholes and springs. It will also mean serving 3 billion people with basic sanitation; using a combination of low-cost solutions such as pour-flush, dry pit latrines and shared flush toilets in urban areas. On the way, simply avoiding open defecation with shared latrines is possibly the most effective best target.
None of this is cheap, with water and sanitation for everyone likely to cost $45 billion annually. But the result is per year, 170,000 fewer deaths from contaminated water, and 80,000 fewer deaths from improper sanitation â€“ with children benefiting the most. Additionally, it would save people, mainly women, up to 40 min per day when collecting water and 15min per day when going to defecate. Avoiding open defecation is even cheaper at $13 billion annually.
For every dollar spent on providing basic drinking water and sanitation we would do $4 and $3 worth of good respectively. Eliminating open defecation in rural areas returns $6 for every dollar spent.
Here, Copenhagen Consensus Center has just released its latest research on water and sanitation targets for the post-2015 development agenda. Guy Hutton, Senior Economist, at the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), World Bank writes the main report, with research assistance provided by Mili Varughese, Operations Analyst at WSP. The report has been peer-reviewed in two alternative perspective papers by Dale Whittington, Professor of Economics at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Manchester Business School. Additionally, experts from the World Chlorine Council present a viewpoint papers concerning Huttonâ€™s analysis.
PhD and Adjunct Professor
President of Copenhagen Consensus Center
PS. The Post-2015 Consensus project brings together 60 teams of economists with NGOs, international agencies and businesses to identify the targets with the greatest benefit-to-cost ratio for the UN's post-2015 development goals. If you have questions about the project, send an email to Research Project Manager Brad Wong by replying to this email.