Around 2 billion people use drinking water sources that are contaminated with indicators of faecal contamination but in many countries data are not available to guide programmes and policies or to target those at greatest at risk.
A collaboration between the MICS and WHO and UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Programme sought to address this data gap and enable countries to collect baseline data on the new SDG indicator “safely managed drinking water services”. First piloted in Bangladesh in 2012, the innovative and cost-effective water quality module has now been incorporated in over 40 national surveys.
A recent study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives describes the findings from the first 27 MICS that included the module and examined risk factors for Escherichia coli (E. coli) contamination across 60,000 households. The study has been recognized as amongst the Best of UNICEF’s Research in 2022, coming third – with particular recognition for devising and validating a new approach to collecting data on the quality and availability of drinking water and for its contribution to understanding risk factors for contamination.
Water quality testing in MICS has sparked a wide range of discussions at national and international levels and the data can inform locally targeted interventions to reduce the risk of contamination and invest in improvements to water sources. Some governments have used the findings to inform decisions about improvements to water and sanitation infrastructure. Others have enhanced public information about water handling. Above all, because these surveys have generated robust data on water quality for the first time, they have provided a baseline for the SDG target – and a replicable method of monitoring progress towards it.
For further details please refer to the Best of UNICEF Research 2022 report and short video describing the study and its impact: