Improved water source, rural (% of rural population with access)

Definition: Access to an improved water source refers to the percentage of the population using an improved drinking water source. The improved drinking water source includes piped water on premises (piped household water connection located inside the user’s dwelling, plot or yard), and other improved drinking water sources (public taps or standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs, and rainwater collection).

Description: The map below shows how Improved water source, rural (% of rural population with access) varies by country. The shade of the country corresponds to the magnitude of the indicator. The darker the shade, the higher the value. The country with the highest value in the world is Greece, with a value of 100.00. The country with the lowest value in the world is Somalia, with a value of 8.80.

Source: WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation (

See also: Country ranking, Time series comparison

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Development Relevance: Water is considered to be the most important resource for sustaining ecosystems, which provide life-supporting services for people, animals, and plants. Global access to safe water and proper hygiene education can reduce illness and death from disease, leading to improved health, poverty reduction, and socio-economic development. However, many countries are challenged to provide these basic necessities to their populations, leaving people at risk for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related diseases. Because contaminated water is a major cause of illness and death, water quality is a determining factor in human poverty, education, and economic opportunities. Lack of access to adequate water contributes to deaths and illness, especially in children. Water based disease transmission by drinking contaminated water is responsible for significant outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid and include diarrhea, viral hepatitis A, cholera, dysentery and dracunculiasis (Guineaworm disease). Improvement of access to clean drinking water is a crucial element in the reduction of under-five mortality and morbidity. Almost one tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by increasing access to safe drinking water, and improving sanitation and hygiene. Further, annually, safer water could prevent 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhea 860 000 child deaths from malnutrition. Economic benefits of improved drinking water include higher economic productivity, more education, and health-care savings. There are disparities in urban and rural areas - the number of people in rural areas using unimproved water sources is five times greater than in urban areas. Eight out of ten people living in urban areas have piped water connections on their premises, compared to only three out of ten people in rural areas. An estimated 95 percent of the urban population globally used an improved water supply source in the early 2010s, compared to about 80 percent of the rural population. Women and children spend millions of hours each year fetching water. The chore diverts their time from other important activities (for example attending school, caring for children, participating in the economy). When water is not available on premises and has to be collected, women and girls are almost two and a half times more likely than men and boys to be the main water carriers for their families. Many international organizations use access to safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities as a measure for progress in the fight against poverty, disease, and death. Access to safe drinking water is also considered to be a human right, not a privilege, for every man, woman, and child. Economic benefits of improved drinking water include higher economic productivity, more education, and health-care savings. WHO and UNICEF estimate that improved drinking water sources are now being used by about 90 percent of the global population. Four out of ten people without access to improved drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Limitations and Exceptions: The data on access to an improved water source measure the percentage of the population with ready access to water for domestic purposes. Access to drinking water from an improved source does not ensure that the water is safe or adequate, as these characteristics are not tested at the time of survey. But improved drinking water technologies are more likely than those characterized as unimproved to provide safe drinking water and to prevent contact with human excreta. While information on access to an improved water source is widely used, it is extremely subjective, and such terms as safe, improved, adequate, and reasonable may have different meaning in different countries despite official WHO definitions (see Definitions). Even in high-income countries treated water may not always be safe to drink. Access to an improved water source is equated with connection to a supply system; it does not take into account variations in the quality and cost (broadly defined) of the service.

Statistical Concept and Methodology: The data are derived by the Joint Monitoring Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) based on national censuses and nationally representative household surveys. The coverage rates for water and sanitation are based on information from service users on the facilities their households actually use rather than on information from service providers, which may include nonfunctioning systems. While the estimates are based on use, the Joint Monitoring Programme reports use as access, because access is the term used in the Millennium Development Goal target for drinking water and sanitation. WHO/UNICEF define an improved drinking-water source as one that, by nature of its construction or through active intervention, is protected from outside contamination, in particular from contamination with fecal matter. Improved water sources include piped water into dwelling, plot or yard; piped water into neighbor's plot; public tap/standpipe; tube well/borehole; protected dug well; protected spring; and rainwater.

Aggregation method: Weighted average

Periodicity: Annual