Benefits of Investing in Water and Sanitation

An OECD Perspective

image of Benefits of Investing in Water and Sanitation

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.

English Also available in: French

Investing downstream in wastewater treatment and safe disposal

Providing safe access to water and sanitation generates significant benefits, as shown in Chapter 2. However, discharging untreated wastewater into the environment can affect users downstream (including population settlements, industry, agriculture etc.) and cause environmental damages. Collecting and treating wastewater and stormwater is required to ensure the long-term availability of water in a convenient quality for human use and environmental demands.1 Despite its importance, it appears that investments in wastewater treatment are often below the required levels to generate sustained benefits.

English Also available in: French

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