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

Providing access to services

Access to water and sanitation has contributed to major improvements in living conditions, with corresponding reductions in mortality and morbidity, historically in the developed world and presently in the developing world. Providing access is often perceived as the core function of water and sanitation services and therefore considered to be the area where most benefits materialise. Partly as a result, access to water and sanitation services is the focus of Target 3 of the Millennium Development Goals 7, set out as follows: “To halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”

English Also available in: French

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