5 Access to safe drinking water

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation has been recognised as a human right by the United Nations (UN, 2010). The purpose of sanitation – a term that covers collection, transport, treatment, disposal and reuse of waste water – is to provide a safe and clean water for citizens. Public water supply is one of the most effective ways to ensure safe drinking water provision.

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The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) no. 6 sets targets to ensure equitable access to drinking water and sanitation for all. It advocates for water use efficiency to be increased across all sectors and to reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity. Similarly, countries set national targets in response to the Protocol on Water and Health of the Water Convention (UNECE, 2020d).

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Access to water supply and basic sanitation services can be measured by two different indicators: proportion of population connected to water supply; and household water use per capita. The following chapters deal with these two indicators.

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5.1       Population connected to water supply

The water supply industry provides water to the public for various purposes including domestic use, drinking, agriculture and industry.

The percentage of a national population connected to water supply services is a measure for quantifying the access to improved water supply services. The indicator is important for defining the level of development of the water economy services and the degree of water accessibility to cover all of the household needs of the population. In this this context, countries present highly variable levels of progress over the time (Figure 16).

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Figure 16: Population connected to water supply industry (2017)

Data sources: Azerbaijan: Az STST (State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan(; Armenia: ArmStatBank (Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia); Belarus: Belstat (National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus); Georgia: National Statistics Office of Georgia; Moldova: Statistica Moldovei (Statistical Databank of the National Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Moldova) and Agency Apele Moldovei.

Note: Data provided to the European Environment Agency under the ENI SEIS II East Project.

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Around 64 % of Armenia’s population lived in urban areas in 2018 (Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia, 2020a). Over recent years, Armenia has invested in improving the public water supply network, particularly to rural areas. By means of these investments, 97.9 % of the population was connected to the water supply system in 2018. Despite Armenia not setting a national target, with almost 98 % of its households connected to the water system, the country is very close to reaching the UN SDG Target 6.1, which asks countries to “achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.” However, according to an UNECE environmental performance assessment in 2000 (UNECE, 2000b), around 80 % of the Armenian public water supply system was more than 10 years old and 55 % was more than 20 years old. Since then, maintenance of the water supply system had been neglected. The number of interruptions in supply is now increasing regularly, and the system loses 79 % of water in transport before it reaches the public.

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Almost half of the population in Azerbaijan was not connected to water supply system in 2017. Since the 2000s, the Azerbaijan government has implemented water supply projects to improve sanitation services in the country (UNECE, 2011b). By means of those investments the total number of people connected to the water supply has increased significantly from 3.6 million inhabitants in 2005 to 5 million inhabitants in 2017. Azerbaijan set targets to ensure access to improved sources of water supply with 24-hour uninterrupted water supply. The targets for 2020 were that 95 % of city residents and 65 % of those in rural areas would have uninterrupted water supplies; for 2030 the targets are for 100 % of city residents and 80 % of those in rural areas. However, two major issues remain as future challenges for water management in Azerbaijan: (1) increasing the percentage of the total population connected to the public water supply; and (2) decreasing the leakages from the transport system. Work on these issues needs to continue, requiring financial and technical investments in the public water supply network.

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Around 66 % of the total population of Georgia was connected to the public water supply in 2018. Between 2015-2018, the percentage of the country’s population connected to water supply industry increased by 10.4 %. Georgia have not set national targets for water supply yet, but the country’s focus is primarily on urban areas, and aims to deliver a high-quality 24-hour drinking water supply to the population, and to improve the water supply and sanitation system in urban areas. However, there is a low level of implementation of specific plans for rural water supply sustainability (WHO, 2015).  

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Belarus aims to supply water to all settlements with more than 100 000 inhabitants. In 2017, around 95 % of Belarusian citizens were connected to the water supply system, which corresponds to a 17 % increase compared to 2000. Sub-programme 5, ‘Pure Water’ of the state ‘Comfort accommodations and an enabling environment for 2016-2020’ programme, sets the target to supply drinking water to all public consumers by the end of 2020 (Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, 2016). Belarus is very close to achieving this target, and the trend in the improvement of the water supply system is encouraging. Meanwhile, Belarus has been investing in renewing and expanding the water supply network in recent years. The total length of the public water supply network increased from 31 156 km in 2010 to 38 204 km in 2017. Over the same time period, the total length of the water network renewed was about 1 295 km, corresponding to 3.4 % of the existing supply network. As a result of these investments, water losses in the Belarusian water supply system have decreased.

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The Republic of Moldova aims to provide access to improved drinking water systems to 99 % of its urban population and 85 % of its rural population by 2025. It aims to provide access to improved sanitation for the entire population, and to connect 85 % of the urban and 25 % of the rural population to sewerage systems by 2025. In Moldova, 1.6 million inhabitants (54.3 % of the total population) were connected to the public water supply system in 2016. The rest of the population met their water demand by self-supply. The water supply industry supplied 84.8 million m3 of water, which is equal to 10 % of the total annual freshwater abstraction in the country. As a result of the high pollution of surface water resources, the country is heavily dependent on groundwater resources, particularly for drinking purposes, which can result in the overexploitation of the groundwater resources (UNECE, 2014a). Because of the poor condition of the water supply system in Moldova, almost half of the water supplied is lost during transport.

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Republic of Moldova’s Millennium Development Goals pertaining to the natural environment also includes intermediate and long-term targets in water supply, defining that the percentage of population with access to safe water supply should grow for 9.2 % from 2002-2006 and 11.5 % from 2010-2015 (UNECE, 2005). Moldova is still far from meeting its national targets. The critical aspects related to the water supply infrastructure are: (1) the unsatisfactory technical condition of the drinking water system and waste water treatment systems; (2) the low percentage of the population with access to improved sanitation services; and (3) insufficient investment in the expansion and improvement of the water supply network and sanitation. The poor condition of the water supply network and insufficient financial and technical resources are making it difficult to implement the desired conditions within the water supply system in the country. The monopoly of the water services, overstaffing (Salvetti and Giovanna, 2015), and the lack of financial resources are the remaining challenges lying ahead in the water sector.

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5.2       Water use by households

Water supplied to households is mainly used for drinking, cooking and hygiene, including basic needs for personal and domestic cleanliness, and amenity uses such as car washing and lawn watering (Howard et al., 2003). The global target set by the UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 6.2 asks countries to “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” by 2030.

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Water use by households is mostly driven by the population, the efficiency of conveyance systems, and the proportion of population connected to water supply services. Eastern Partnership countries present considerably different progress. Overall, there is a decreasing trend in population in all countries except Azerbaijan. In parallel to the development of connecting the more portion of population to the water supply systems, total water use by households has been increasing in all countries since 2010. Nevertheless, each country presents different trends in total water use for households, either due to improvements in conveyance systems or continuing increases in the total population (Figure 17 and Figure 18).  Water use per capita is an indication on the performance of the water utility systems, as well as cultural behaviours of individuals water consumption. However, measuring the impacts of cultural behaviours in water consumption is challenging and requires peer-to-peer comparison within the same layer of sociological groups.

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Among all six countries, Georgia exhibits the highest water use per capita due to high water loss in the conveyance system (Figure 17). Each Georgian citizen used on average 90.6 m3 of water from renewable freshwater resources during the year of 2018. This corresponds to approximately 248 l of freshwater per capita per day. Georgia has improved its water supply network during recent years. About 40.5 % of the total population was not connected to the water supply in 2015, but this figure decreased by 6.3 % in 2018 as a result of improvements to the network. Although Georgia is a non-water-stressed country, about 34.2 % of its population was not connected to the public water supply in 2018 and had to manage their water demand by self-supply. In addition, the country’s water supply network is in poor condition, causing the network to lose 66.4 % of the total water supply in the network.

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Figure 17: Water use per capita by households (2017)

Data sources: Azerbaijan: Az STST (State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan(; Armenia: ArmStatBank (Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia); Belarus: Belstat (National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus); Georgia: National Statistics Office of Georgia; Moldova: Statistica Moldovei (Statistical Databank of the National Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Moldova) and Agency Apele Moldovei.

Note: Data for Georgia: 2018. Data provided to the European Environment Agency under the ENI SEIS II East Project.

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In Armenia, annual household water use has fluctuated significantly in recent years, dropping between 2000-2009, and then increasing between 2009-2017, due to the expansion of the public water supply network to rural areas. As a result of this expansion, the total water volume supplied to households by the water supply industry increased from 61.4 million m3 in 2009 to 107.6 million m3 in 2017. Over the same time, the country’s population has decreased by 7 %. Water losses during transport remain high, with an average rate of 30 % of total water supply, posing high pressure mainly on groundwater resources. In 2017, on average, an Armenian citizen used 36 m3 of water from renewable freshwater resources. This corresponds to approximately 98.6 l of freshwater per capita per day.

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Figure 18: Development of total freshwater use by households

Belarus

Armenia

 

Georgia

Azerbaijan

Moldova


Data sources: Azerbaijan: Az STST (State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan(; Armenia: ArmStatBank (Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia); Belarus: Belstat (National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus); Georgia: National Statistics Office of Georgia; Moldova: Statistica Moldovei (Statistical Databank of the National Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Moldova) and Agency Apele Moldovei.

Note: Data for Georgia: 2018. Data provided to the European Environment Agency under the ENI SEIS II East Project.

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In Azerbaijan, total freshwater use by households has increased since 2000. In parallel, the total population of the country increased by 22 % between 2000-2017, whilst the percentage of the population connected to the public water supply increased only 9.3 % over the same period. In 2017, water use for households was estimated at an average of 201.6 l perperson per day. It should be noted that between 2015-2017 total freshwater use decreased by 13 % due to investments in the water conveyance infrastructure. Nevertheless, as water is mainly supplied to households from surface water resources, any deterioration in water quality may pose high public health risks. As a result of the increasing proportion of the population connected to the water supply system, water use from the public water supply system increased by 15 % between 2012-2017. However, since half of the population is still not connected to the water supply services, further efforts are needed to achieve the UN target that there is ‘by 2030, universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all’ (Sustainable Development Goal no. 6.1).

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In Belarus, 351 million m3 water was supplied to households by the water supply industry, which corresponds 27 % of the total water supply at the country level. According to Belstat estimates, annual household water use in Belarus more than halved from 717 million m3 in 2001 to 351 million m3 in 2017. Despite there being no significant change in the population during this time period, the substantial decrease in demand for household water use can only be due to an increase in water efficiency. As stated in the UNECE third environmental performance review of Belarus in 2016 (UNECE, 2016b), because of increased water metering, water demand from households is expected to decline in coming years. The average Belarusian citizen used 37 m3 of water from renewable freshwater resources in 2017 compared with 72 m3 in 2001. This corresponds to approximately 107 l of freshwater percapita per day.

  • Ekaterina Poleshchuk (invited by Nihat Zal) 22 May 2020 12:46:08

    In Belarus, NOT 351 mln cub.m, but 333 mln cub.m water was supplied to households by the water supply industry, which corresponds 26% of total water supply at the country level.

    351 mln cub.m is total water use by households include self sypply (SEIS C4 indicator). 

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In Moldova, daily water use per person was estimated to be around 86 litres in 2017. Since 2012, there has been a considerable increase in the proportion of the population connected to the water supply system. In 2017, 53.5 % of the total Moldovan population was connected to the water supply system (compared with 42 % in 2012), of which the majority live in urban areas. Currently, almost 93 % of the country’s urban population and only 27 % of the rural population has access to improved water supply systems (UNECE, 2014a). Groundwater is used as the main source of drinking water in rural areas, which puts high pressures on groundwater aquifers.

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