Water is essential for economic growth, human health, and the environment. Yet governments around the world face significant challenges in managing their water resources effectively. The problems are multiple and complex: billions of people are still without access to safe water and adequate sanitation; competition for water is increasing among the different uses and users; and major investment is required to maintain and improve water infrastructure in OECD and non-OECD countries. This OECD series on water provides policy analysis and guidance on the economic, financial and governance aspects of water resources management. These aspects generally lie at the heart of the water problem and hold the key to unlocking the policy puzzle.
The provision of water supply, sanitation and wastewater services generates substantial benefits for public health, the economy and the environment. Benefit-to-cost ratios can be as high as 7 to 1 for basic water and sanitation services in developing countries.
Wastewater treatment interventions, for example, generate significant benefits for public health, the environment and for certain economic sectors such as fisheries, tourism and property markets.
The full magnitude of the benefits of water services is seldom considered for a number of reasons, including the difficulty in quantifying important non-economic benefits such as non-use values, dignity, social status, cleanliness and overall well-being. Also, information about the benefits of water services is usually hidden in the technical literature, where it remains invisible to key decision-makers in ministries.
This report draws together and summarises existing information on the benefits of water and sanitation.