According to the World Health Organization, the Global Economic Return on sanitation spending is 5.5 US Dollars for every 1 dollar invested, more than double the economic return on Water spending which is 2 US Dollars for every one 1dollar Invested. This means investing in good sanitation is not only essential but also economically sensible.
Then comes the multibillion dollar question: What is Sanitation and what does good sanitation entail?
According to the World Health Organization, Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feces. Sanitation also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal, and includes the following engineering infrastructure items
1. Excreta management system.
2. Wastewater management system including wastewater treatment plants.
3. Solid Waste management Systems.
4. Drainage Systems for rainwater (Storm water Drainage)
The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council define Sanitation as “The collection, transport, treatment and disposal or reuse of human excreta, domestic wastewater and solid waste and associated hygiene promotion.
The main contributor to benefits from universal coverage of sanitation and water supply is the value of time savings from closer access and reduced queuing for sanitation and water supply facilities, which account for more than 70% of total benefits globally. This provides a clear case for investing in water supply and sanitation services as opposed to only in health measures like vaccination programs. Additional benefits that are not consistently estimated due to lack of underlying data as well as difficulties in converting some impacts to monetary values include improved water quality in lakes, rivers and coastal waters, a net gain in usable land space due to isolating human excreta, the increase in property values, and tourism revenues.
Given the very significant benefits from providing sanitation and water services, and the highly favorable returns on these investments, world and national leaders should step up to ensure that the required costs of achieving MDG targets are financed - US$115 billion for sanitation and US$30 billion for water supply (for individual countries that have not met the MDG target). The focus of international efforts to meet these global targets also needs to shift to the countries most in need, and the neediest populations in those countries.
This is because improved sanitation and water supply has implications for not only malnutrition reduction, child health, access to safe drinking water and the quality of life of marginal populations, but also poverty as a whole. This makes investment in improved sanitation and water supply a key variable in the attainment of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development. Hence, drinking-water and sanitation should be central elements of the discussions on goals and targets for post-2015. Indeed, we should be more ambitious than we have been so far – encouraging governments to think beyond basic household supply to considering measuring drinking-water quality, reducing release of untreated sewage and wastewater to the environment, and institutional WASH (e.g. schools and health facilities) and public sanitation.