We assessed countries' temporal patterns in access to drinking water and sanitation using publicly available data. We then classified countries using non-linear modeling techniques as having one of the following trajectories: 100% coverage, linear growth, linear decline, no change, saturation, acceleration, deceleration, negative acceleration, or negative deceleration. We further assessed the degree to which temporal profiles follow a sigmoidal pattern and how these patterns might vary within a given country between rural and urban settings.
Global access to safe drinking water and sanitation has improved dramatically during the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) period. However, there is substantial heterogeneity in progress between countries and inequality within countries.
Among countries with more than 10 data points, between 15% and 38% showed a non-linear trajectory, depending on the indicator. Overall, countries' progress followed a sigmoidal trend, but some countries are making better progress and some worse progress than would be expected. We highlight several countries that are not on track to meet the MDG for water or sanitation, but whose access is accelerating, suggesting better performance during the coming years. Conversely, we also highlight several countries that have made sufficient progress to meet the MDG target, but in which access is decelerating.
Patterns were heterogeneous and non-linearity was common. Characterization of these heterogeneous patterns will help policy makers allocate resources more effectively. For example, policy makers can identify countries that could make use of additional resources or might be in need of additional institutional capacity development to properly manage resources; this will be essential to meet the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals.