New JMP report offers fresh insights into rural water progress and challenges

The new JMP report is out with WASH data up to 2017! This is an initial look at some key points relating to rural water supply

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) is one of the central data and analysis resources for the WASH sector and each new report and data update is generally grabbed eagerly by WASH data geeks, like me.

This being RWSN, I’m specifically interested in rural water supply and what I present below is a hasty digest of some key facts and figures in the latest 2019 JMP report specifically relating to rural drinking water access.

I’m sure other WASH bloggers will also add the analysis, but I found the stuff on inequalities very interesting and useful. Some things that jumped out at me include:

  • What can we learn from Paraguay, Morocco and other countries that have made good progress?
  • Rural water supply challenges are not just about Sub-Saharan Africa: Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Jamaica, Nicaragua and others are going backwards; and in terms of absolute numbers of people, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan still have millions of rural people
  • Lower wealth quintiles often get left behind, but not always.
  • The new 3 elements of “Safely Managed” water are interesting and highlight an urgent need for systematic water quality monitoring – which a new RWSN Topic this year, as part of the Mapping & Monitoring Theme, thanks to our friends at the University of North Carolina.

Global Headline Facts & Figures

Here are some nuggets that will doubtless be seen in powerpoint presentations, funding proposals and journal papers over the coming year:

  • “2000-2017: Rural coverage of safely managed services increased from 39% to 53%. The gap between urban and rural areas decreased from 47 to 32 percentage points.”
  • “In 2017: 5.3 billion people used safely managed services. An additional 1.4 billion used at least basic services. 206 million people used limited services, 435 million used unimproved sources, and 144 million still used surface water.”
  • “46 out of 132 countries are on track to achieve ‘nearly universal’ basic water services by 2030, but rural areas and the poorest wealth quintiles have furthest to go”
  • “The greatest increase was recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa, where a quarter of the current population has gained access to at least basic drinking water since 2000”
  • In 2017: Eight out of ten people still lacking even basic services lived in rural areas. Nearly half lived in Least Developed Countries
  • “207 million people still used sources where water collection exceeded 30 minutes. Two thirds (135 million) of these people lived in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa but six out of eight SDG regions contained at least one country where >10% of the population used limited water services in 2017. The burden of water collection falls disproportionately on women.”

The report also reminds us that WASH is not just about SDG6, there are direct and indirect references in:

  • SDG 1.4 (No Poverty) its indicator 1.4.1 “Proportion of population living in households with access to basic services (including access to basic drinking water, basic sanitation and basic handwashing facilities)”
  • SDG 4.a (Education) and its indicator: 4.a.1 Proportion of schools with access to… (e) basic drinking water, (f) single-sex basic sanitation facilities, and (g) basic handwashing facilities
  • SDG 3.8 (Health) and its indicator on proportion of health care facilities with basic WASH services.

Since the emergence of SDG6.1 there has been a question about what “Safely Managed” water means. Well now there is some data available of the three elements chosen by the JMP team:

  • “Accessible on premises”
  • “Available when needed”
  • “Free from contamination”

However, there is only data for 14 countries for all three of these, but from those: “Between 2000 and 2017, water quality in rural areas improved from 42% to 53% free from contamination”

Regional/Country Progress and inequalities

Without doubt, the rural water supply star country is Paraguay: “Paraguay increased rural coverage of basic water from 53% to 99% and reduced the gap between richest and poorest by over 40 percentage points.”


  • “In almost all countries, service levels are higher in urban areas than in rural areas, but different patterns of inequality are observed.”
  • “In Latin America and the Caribbean, 12% of the rural population lacked basic water services in 2017, compared to 29% in 2000”
  • “In Haiti rural basic water coverage has increased among the richest but decreased among the poorest thereby widening the gap between them”
  • “In Nicaragua, rural basic water coverage has decreased among both groups.”
click to expand

Country progress to achieving Basic Rural Water Coverage by 2030 (figure above):

  • 16 countries on track, including: Morocco, Tajikistan, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Azerbaijan, Iraq, El Salvador, Kazakhstan, India, Vietnam, Tunisia, Brazil, Lithuania, Suriname, Panama. The most progress is being made by Morocco (+2.5%/year)
  • 61 countries are making progress, but too slowly.  The best progress is being made by Afghanistan and Mozambique (+2.1%/year)
  • 17 countries are going backwards, including: Iran, Fiji, Malaysia, North Korea, Serbia, Jamaica, Comoros, Gambia, Lesotho, Nicaragua, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Solomon Island. The biggest declines have been in Burkina Faso, Comoros and the Solomon Islands (-0.9%/year).

Which countries have the biggest rural water supply challenges?

The JMP data can examine this question in different ways – and a few new ones too. This is a quick-and-dirty dive into the data to look at which countries are struggling and should be given priority:

A column on water quality/contamination criteria is not included because the aggregated data for rural water is not available – and in many cases probably doesn’t exist.

These are just a few highlights, please take the time to read the report and explore the data portal.

Author: RWSN Secretariat

RWSN is a global network of rural water supply professionals. Visit to find out more

One thought on “New JMP report offers fresh insights into rural water progress and challenges”

  1. Hi Sean
    Thank you for this great compilation of key facts from the new JMP report. For me the most striking facts are these (2017):
    – Eight out of ten people still lacking even basic services lived in rural areas.
    – 144 million still used surface water

    With so much talk around Leave No One Behind, and still most of the efforts go to people who already have basic services to a higher level, whereas 144 million people still use surface water… how is this possible?

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