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Indicators and Monitoring

At the 46th session of the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) in March 2015, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that data are the “lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability”, illustrating the importance of monitoring progress towards the SDGs. He also reminded the audience that no target should be seen as met until it is met by all, highlighting the need for data disaggregation, by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.


Monitoring will be critical to ensure the success of the SDG framework. It is therefore necessary to identify and apply specific, measurable and action-oriented indicators. The Member State-led Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) is responsible for developing an indicator framework for SDG monitoring at the global level and to support its implementation. The UN-Water family has been highly involved throughout the SDG process, and supports the IAEG-SDGs on behalf of the UN system in regard to SDG 6. The ambition of the IAEG-SDGs is to produce a final recommendation of an SDG indicator framework by the end of 2015, to be endorsed by the UNSC and adopted by the UN General Assembly in the first part of 2016.

Proposed indicators for water and sanitation related targets

SDG 6 contains eight targets: six on outcomes in regard to water and sanitation, and two on the means of implementing the outcome targets. Based on an extensive consultation process including all UN agencies involved in global monitoring of water and sanitation, academia, business, civil society and Member States, UN-Water has proposed a set of core indicators for global monitoring of SDG 6.  The suggested indicators have the ability not only to provide the most impact for the water and sanitation related targets, but can also support the monitoring of many of the other goals and targets in the proposed SDG framework. To effectively drive action on the ground, the global indicators need to be supplemented by additional indicators that are relevant at the regional, national and local levels.


To learn more about the proposed indicators, please refer to our consolidated technical input on water and sanitation related indicators.



Indicators as listed by the IAEG-SDGs, for discussion and decision at the 47th session of the Statistical Commission in March 2016:



Target 6.1 “By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”

  • Percentage of population using safely managed drinking water services


Target 6.2 “By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”

  • Percentage of population using safely managed sanitation services including a hand washing facility with soap and water


Target 6.3 “By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and increasing recycling and safe reuse globally”

  • Percentage of wastewater safely treated   
  • Percentage of water bodies with good water quality


Target 6.4 “By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suff­ering from water scarcity”

  • Percentage change in water use efficiency over time
  • Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal in percentage of available freshwater resources


Target 6.5 “By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate”

  • Degree of integrated water resources management (IWRM) implementation (0-100)
  • (Percentage of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation) - still being discussed


Target 6.6 “By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes”

  • Percentage of change in water-related ecosystems extent over time


Target 6.a “By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies”

  • Amount of water and sanitation related Official Development Assistance that is part of a government coordinated spending plan


Target 6.b “Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management”

  • Percentage of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

Global monitoring of SDG 6

Building on national monitoring efforts, the UN-Water family stands ready to support Member States in global monitoring of SDG 6.


For drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2), the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) is well placed, with 15 years’ experience from MDG monitoring.


For the new targets on ambient water quality and wastewater treatment, water scarcity and water-use efficiency, integrated water resources management and water-related ecosystems (SDG targets 6.3 to 6.6), a new global monitoring initiative, GEMI – Integrated monitoring of water and sanitation related SDG targets is currently being developed, based on existing monitoring initiatives.


And finally, the monitoring of the means of implementation (SDG targets 6.a and 6.b) can build on the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) and the GEMI reporting towards target 6.5 on integrated water resources management (IWRM), which is based on the existing UN-Water IWRM status reporting.


JMP, GEMI and GLAAS will be progressively aligned to ensure a coherent SDG 6 monitoring framework, and together, they will be able to monitor progress towards the entirety of SDG 6, while also underpinning the monitoring of many other SDGs and targets through the use of multipurpose indicators.

Last update:10 Jun 2015