Main content

The 2020 Data Drive: Joining Forces to Report on Progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6

The SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 concluded that the world is far from reaching SDG 6 on water and sanitation, which may jeopardize the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Billions of people still lack access to safe water and sanitation, resulting in needless deaths, chronic disease, missed education and reduced productivity. And the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically underlines the importance of water for hygiene.


When Member States adopted the SDGs in 2015, they committed to regularly report data to the UN to track progress and ensure accountability. Credible and timely data are essential to the realization of the SDGs, as they help decision-makers to identify countries, people and sectors that are left behind, and set priorities for increased efforts and investments. The latest round of data compilation for SDG 6 – ‘water and sanitation for all’ – is the 2020 Data Drive.

Through the UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6 (IMI-SDG6), the United Nations (UN) seeks to support countries in monitoring water- and sanitation-related issues within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in compiling country data to report on global progress towards SDG 6: ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’. IMI-SDG6 brings together the United Nations organizations that are formally mandated to compile country data on the SDG 6 global indicators, the so-called custodian agencies.

Since the adoption of the SDGs, there has been at least one round of global data compilation for each of the 11 indicators under SDG 6. For six of the indicators, there are sufficient country data to produce global baselines, but for five of them we don’t yet have enough. In fact, the average country in the world is reporting on only about half of the indicators. This represents an important knowledge gap. What we don’t measure we cannot manage.

On this subject, the message from our country focal points is loud and clear: the data gaps result from too little technical capacity and too few human and financial resources. Examples include lack of monitoring infrastructure, lack of data management systems, low staff numbers and low expertise. It is essential to further increase national-level capacity for SDG 6 monitoring.

To close this data gap and to advance trend analysis of existing data, in March 2020, IMI-SDG6 launched the second round of global data compilation on the following seven SDG 6 indicators:

  • 6.3.1 “Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flow safely treated”
  • 6.3.2 “Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality”
  • 6.4.1 “Change in water use efficiency over time”
  • 6.4.2 “Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources”
  • 6.5.1 “Degree of integrated water resources management implementation”
  • 6.5.2 “Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation”
  • 6.6.1 “Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time”

The custodian agencies for these indicators are contacting the relevant country focal points with requests for data. This is the 2020 Data Drive.


This is an extract of an article published on 30 April in the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) SDG Knowledge Hub. The article is written by Joakim Harlin, Chief Freshwater Unit, Chief Manager of the UNEP-DHI Partnership Centre, UNEP; Graham Alabaster, Chief of Sanitation and Waste Management, UN-Habitat; Tom Slaymaker, Senior Statistics and Monitoring Specialist (WASH), UNICEF; Marlos De Souza, Secretary of the Water Platform, FAO; Sonja Koeppel, Secretary of the Water Convention and Co-Secretary of the Protocol on Water and Health, UNECE; Youssef Filali Meknassi, Director, Division of Water Sciences, Secretary of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), UNESCO; Bruce Gordon, Coordinator of WASH, WHO; and Tommaso Abrate, Scientific Officer, WMO.

Read the full article 'The 2020 Data Drive: Joining Forces to Report on Progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6'.

Contact Us

For media and interview requests, contact us on: mentioning [Media request] in the subject heading.

News and Media

Get the latest news from UN-Water; Understand what is happening around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; Interact in our campaigns; Explore newly released publications and where events are taking place around the world.