Statistics on Water & Sanitation Failures

This is an ongoing compilation of statistics that shows that failure rates for water systems, latrines, and hygiene promotion campaigns are still high after decades of intervention.


Cambodia: A total of 55% of the 366 tube wells in the Chum Kiri district have broken down at some time since construction. Of those wells that have ever broken down, 27% were never fixed and remain broken today. Among the non- or partially-functioning water supplies, 108 tube wells had a mechanical problem and 46 dug wells  were too dry by February (approximately four months into the dry season). (SNV Cambodia, 2014)


  • Tanzania: national mapping shows 38% of 74,331 water points are not functional, and 7% are functional but need repair (Water Point Mapping Tanzania)
  • Ghana: 21% of 1,509 water points were not functioning on the day of visit (Samani, Destina and Patrick Apoya, Sustainable Water Service Delivery Project: Study Findings, 2013 Water and Health Conference, Chapel Hill, NC.)
  • Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda: In a study commissioned by Plan, nearly 5000 households in 116 villages were re-assessed according to the original open defecation free (ODF) verification criteria. If all five criteria below are applied, the overall slippage rate across the study was 92%. In all countries each household was expected to have:
    1. A functioning latrine with a superstructure
    2. A means of keeping flies from the pit
    3. Absence of excreta in the vicinity of the house
    4. Hand washing facilities with water and soap or soap-substitute such as ash
    5. Evidence that the latrine and hand washing facilities were being used (FH Designs, 2013)
  • South Africa: an informal survey of toilets at schools that fall within four of the National Health Insurance pilot districts found that at all 17 schools the toilets were in a shocking condition (AllAfrica, 2013)
  • India: In Bihar, a common practice once the pit was full was to revert to the practice of open defecation. The percentage of the population going back to open defecation was close to 90% (an educated guess as there is no monitoring of latrine usage) (Tremolet & Binder, 2013).
  • Uganda:16% of rural improved water points were non-functional (MWE, Republic of Uganda, 2013)
  • Uganda: In Bundibugyo, 21% of water points are not functional on average. Some subcounties have functionality rates well above 90%, but others like Kanara and Bubandi have functionality rates as low as 33%. These non-functioning systems lead to dry tap stands, resulting in about 45,000 Bundibugyo residents who are reported to be covered but in reality have to walk long distances to the nearest alternative, often an unprotected water source. Bundibugyo has registered an outbreak of either cholera or typhoid fever or both every year for the past 3 years. (SNV, 2013)
  • Uganda: Only about 7% of 377 surveyed households reported that their village hand pumps had never failed, while the rest reported that their pumps failed nearly every month (14.5%), about twice or more in a year (54%) or once a year (15.6%). Some of the non-functional water sources were considered  ‘landmarks’ by the village residents (Mugumya, 2013).
  • Malawi: In a service level survey of 48 villages, it was surprising to note that 66% of MALDA handpumps installed one year ago failed both pump tests and were therefore recorded as being non-functional. The proportion of fully functional MALDAs was between 29% and 50% in all age cohorts (Shaw & Manda, 2013).
  • Malawi: The majority of latrines in all studied areas had no handwashing facilities available: the sample average was 44%.(evidence suggests this surrogate marker is one of the most reliable indicators of actual practice) (Shaw & Manda, 2013).
  • Nepal: The National Management Information Project shows that of 40,000 gravity flow schemes, 82% are not fully functional (Mahato, RWSN e-discussion, June 10, 2013).


  • Uganda: 19% of 79,413 water points are not working. Shallow wells have the highest non-functionality rates (approximately 30%), while protected springs have the lowest non-functionality rate (approximately 88%). As many as 2,303 point water sources (2.9%) are considered abandoned, having been non-functional for five or more years. (Nekesa & Kulanyi, 2012)
  • Haiti:A survey of 1096 water kiosks and 2266 water fountains showed that more than half of existing water kiosks are out of service in four geographical departments: Nord (63%), Sud (60%), Grand’Anse (59%) and Artibonite (53%) and 41.6% of existing water fountains inventoried are not functional (DINEPA, 2013)
  • China: World’s biggest eco-toilet scheme fails: The dry toilets in Inner Mongolia’s Daxing eco-community have been quietly replaced after three years of bad smells, health problems and maggots (The Guardian, 2012)
  • Cambodia: In areas where community-led total sanitation (CLTS) methods were used to promote latrine use, only about 15% of households with a latrine use the toilet regularly, while the rest keep going to the bush for defecation (WSP, 2012).
  • Honduras: Of the 106 water systems assessed across Honduras, about half were in fact rehabilitations of existing systems, taking about one-third of the total investments made in the period under review (WASHCost, 2012)
  • Kenya: the construction of new school latrines actually increased health risks among girls because hygiene behavior did not improve (L.E. Greene et al, 2012)
  • Sierra Leone: A comprehensive water point mapping exercise (more than 28,000 water points) in 2012 showed the rate of damage of public water points is high and rises rapidly with point age. Among points built in 2007, 31% are impaired, and 17% are broken down. Furthermore, up to 40% of protected in-use points providing insufficient water during the dry season. (Sierra Leone Ministry of Water Resources, 2012)
  • Swaziland: A pilot water point mapping effort in 8 Tinkhundlas (sub-districts) beginning Nov 2010 showed that out of 2689 water points, 58.6% are functional, 11.5% are partially functional, and 29.9% are non-functional. (Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy, Department of Water Affairs, Water & Sanitation Point Mapping Pilot Project Report 2012)
  • Ghana: In three districts (East Gonja, Akatsi, Sunyani West), more than 30% of the surveyed infrastructure was not functional, and as little as 2% was providing the basic level of service for which it was intended (Adank et al, 2012).
  • Tanzania: One in four public kiosks were not functional at the time of an interview of 324 residents of Dar es Salaam (Listening to Dar, 2012)
  • DR Congo: Out of 2,051 water points in three provinces – Bas Congo, Equateur and Kinshasa – non-functionality was highest in Bas Congo at 68%, 24% in Kinshasa and 14% in Equateur (see table below). In Bas Congo only 39% of functional water points provided safe drinking water while in Kinshasa it was just 32%. (Hambadiahana & Tolsma, 2012. Water Point Mapping in DR Congo) (SNV, 2013)
    Percentages/Number Province Bas Congo Province Equateur Province Kinshasa
    Water Points




    Non-functional or partially functional protected water points




    Non-functional or partially functional boreholes




    Potability of protected water points




    Protected water points without management system




    Protected water points without a water payment mechanism




Sub-Saharan Africa: In a survey of 23 European Community-funded projects in six sub-Saharan countries (European Court of Auditors, 2012):

  • Overall, equipment was installed as planned and was in working order. However, fewer than half of the projects examined delivered results meeting the beneficiaries’ needs.
  • While the projects examined were sustainable in technical terms, for a majority of projects, results and benefits will not continue to flow in the medium and long term unless non-tariff revenue is ensured; or because of institutional weaknesses (weak capacity by operators to run the equipment installed).


  • Mali: in four municipalities, non-functionality of “modern” water points ranged from 14 to 41% (Jones, 2013)
  • Dominican Republic: A sustainability assessment of 61 rural water systems found that 18% are unlikely to be sustainable (it is unlikely the community will be able to overcome significant challenges) (Schweitzer & Mihelcic, 2012).
  • Central African Republic: only 10% of the wells and boreholes provide safe water despite these being the main source of water for urban dwellers (Dominguez-Torres and Foster, 2011).
  • India: The Total Sanitation Campaign was intended to be a community-led, people-centered, demand-driven and incentive-based program to address India’s rural sanitation crisis. But outcomes were remarkably poor. 2011 census data showed 31% sanitation coverage, far from the 68% reported by the Government. “The decade has witnessed progress slowing down and the number of rural households without latrines increasing by 8.3 million.” (Hueso & Bell, 2013)
  • Kenya: Of 100 water systems assessed (built between 2006-2010), 75% are still in use. 45% are affected by minor technical issues, or even serious damages, although they have the potential to be remediated. 14% of the systems are non-functional (Welthungerlife, 2011)
  • Liberia: 40% of over 10,000 improved water points mapped nationally were failed or needed repair (Government of Liberia, 2014)
  • Liberia: The first systematic sampling of water points and study of water quality in Monrovia found that 57% of the water points were contaminated by E. coli, which is an indicator of widespread fecal contamination.  The health standard for E. coli is none present/detected. (How a City Gets its Drinking Water: A Case Study – Capital City of Monrovia, Liberia, Vincent W. Uhl, Ashish Daw and Jaclyn A. Baron, 2012)
    • 100% of the unprotected hand-dug wells sampled showed the presence of E. coli.
    • 75% of the kiosks sampled showed the presence of E. coli.
    • 67% of the LWSC city water taps sampled showed the presence of E. coli.
    • 52% of the protected hand-dug open wells fitted with hand pumps showed the presence of E. coli.
    • 44% of the drilled wells fitted with hand pumps showed the presence of E. coli.
Functionality of rural water supply schemes by age (six districts in Tanzania)  WaterAid (2011) Sustainability Framework

Functionality of rural water supply schemes by age (six districts in Tanzania) WaterAid (2011) Sustainability Framework

  • Rwanda: In a baseline survey of 126 water points in the District of Kicukiro, only 41% provided enough water for the community every day of the year. 50% of the water points had been down for more than 1 day in the last month. 55% of the communities reported that they had no spare parts on hand for the water system (Water For People, Kicukiro Scorecard, 2011).
  • Iraq: An evaluation of a WASH program in Iraq found no positive outcomes resulting from the hygiene campaign (NCA, 2011).
  • Belarus: 14.5% of rural water supply systems do not meet microbial quality standards and 30.1% do not meet chemical standards (WHO, 2011).
  • Malawi: A survey of the water schemes in the early 1980s showed over 90% of taps were functioning, but now only 42.4% are functioning: in the Northern Region, 74% of 2305 taps from gravity-fed piped water schemes are non-functional; in the Central (1,465 taps) and Southern Regions (10,215 taps), 55% of the taps from piped water systems are non-functional (Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, Water and Development, 2011).


  • Ethiopia: Non-functionality of rural water schemes in 10 regions ranges from 18% to 35%, with a national average of 20% (Calaw, Ludi, and Tucker, 2013)
  • Nepal:Out of 38,000 gravity flow water supply systems, about half are partly or totally defunct (Nepal Functionality Thematic Working Group, 2010)
  • Madagascar: Functionality of existing water points is 90% for boreholes according to a 2009 RWSN report; 20% according to a 2010 baseline
    survey of the USAID-funded RANO HamPivoatra Project.  Actual functionality rate is likely between 40 – 50 % nationally (Annis, 2013?)
  • Sierra Leone: A survey of all existing water access points across three districts (2,859 structures) found only 30% of the structures in place were found to be capable of delivering access to safe water throughout the year (Fondation Pro Victimis).
  • Afghanistan: nationally, 45% of water supply systems in public schools need extensive repair or replacement; also 45% of toilets in public schools need extensive repair or replacement (UNICEF, 2012)
  • Bangladesh: nationally, 56% of the toilets in public schools need extensive repairs. While 42% of schools report providing soap for handwashing, soap was found in only 17% of schools (UNICEF, 2012)
  • Bhutan: nationally, only 60% of the boys’ toilets, 70% of the girls’ toilets and 70% of the water supply schemes in public schools are functional (UNICEF, 2012)
  • India: although 90% of schools had toilets, 50% of schools had nonfunctional toilets. This was a decline from 2007 when 25% of school toilets were found nonfunctional. (UNICEF, 2012)
  • Maldives: In public schools across the country, 27% of the toilets need extensive repair or replacement (UNICEF, 2012)
  • Pakistan: In public schools nationally, 39% of the water supply systems and 43% of the toilets need extensive repair or replacement (UNICEF, 2012)
  • Africa: RWSN estimates that only two out of three handpumps are working at any time. (RWSN, 2010)
  • Kenya: 2010 pilot mapping showed that, of 1011 ‘improved’ water points (all source types), average rates of non-functionality were 28% (West Pokot), 32% (Kyuso), and 20% (Mbeere North) (SNV 2010)


  • Bangladesh: among 972,865 existing water options (for arsenic mitigation), 29% are not active (Government of Bangladesh, 2009)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Approximately 50,000 rural water points are broken (Skinner, 2009)
  • Kenya: Only 58% of rural water sources are functional (Kenya Ministry of Water & Irrigation. 2009. Sample Survey on Water Quality and Functionality of Water Systems mentioned here).
  • Zimbabwe: A study in Mt Darwin District found 38% of the boreholes studied not functioning. Average downtime for the boreholes was 3 weeks (University of Zimbabwe, 2009)
  • Tanzania (WaterAid 2009):
    • 54% of 65,000 water points nationwide are operational; 75% of points that are only two years old.
    • Nearly half (46%) of public improved water points in rural areas are not functioning.
    • Almost half of all investment in rural water supply is effectively wasted.
    • Up to 7.5 million rural Tanzanians lack access to clean and safe water due to functionality problems.
  • Pakistan: (Asian Development Bank Independent Evaluation Group, 2009) an independent study of ADB’s assistance to rural water supply in the Punjab Province identified, among others, these major concerns:
    • 20% of the subprojects are nonfunctional
    • only 43% of community based organizations responsible for subprojects are functional and their capacity remains weak.
  • Nepal: A study of Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) effectiveness showed while all but one of the communities studied had achieved open-defecation free (ODF) status, there was evidence of fairly widespread non-compliance in the form of now-hidden open defecation (WaterAid 2009)
Angola 4500 30
Benin 6700 22
Burkina Faso 22400 25
Cameroon 9000 25
DRC 1500 67
Ethiopia 30046 35
Cote d’Ivoire 19500 65
Guinea 12500 20
Kenya 12000 30
Liberia 1350 31
Madagascar 2500 10
Malawi 19000 40
Mali 14200 34
Mozambique 17000 25
Niger 7175 35
Nigeria 80000 50
Sierra Leone 2500 65
Uganda 30000 20
Zambia 15000 32
Zimbabwe 38200 30
TOTALS 345071 36

(Estimates in table above from RWSN, 2009)


  • Malawi: 31% of the improved rural water points are not functioning (Bauman & Danert, 2008)
  • Ethiopia: Out of the 70 water supply schemes in Mirab Abaya Woreda, 40 were functional and the other 30 are non-functional (Deneke & Abebe, 2008).
  • Nepal: A national survey of households in 36,038 wards found only 18% of the population with a water supply are served by well functioning
    water points/systems; 39% are served by points that need minor repair, 12% by points that need major repair, 21% by points that need rehabilitation, 9% by points that need reconstruction, and 1.6% by points that are non-refunctionable (NMIP, 2011).
  • Timor-Leste: An assessment of all (134) rural water supply systems in Covalima district found: of 54 piped systems, 44% were fully functional, 30% partially functional, and 26% not functioning. Of the 80 hand pumps, 11 were under construction, 41% of completed systems were fully functional and 59% not functioning (Oxfam, 2008).
  • Croatia: 70% customers of of 443 small water supply systems receive water that is not in compliance with the respective quality standards (WHO, 2011).
  • Mozambique: The percent of non-functioning water points remains around 20% (see figure) (Jansz, 2011)
Source: Janusz, 2011

Mozambique Water Point Non-Functionality. Source: Jansz, 2011. A study into rural water supply sustainability in Niassa province, Mozambique.


  • Bolivia: in over 100 communities visited in the rural municipality of Tiraque, fewer than ten had no water system, 17 were functioning per Bolivia government norms, and the rest were providing sub-par services, requiring anywhere from complete rehabilitations to minor repairs to ensure water of adequate quantity, quality, and continuity was being provided to all citizens (Fogelberg, 2013).
  • India: An estimated 50% of subsidized toilets remain unused or are being used for purposes other than sanitation. (WSP. 2007)
  • South Africa: In a sample of water and sanitation projects in all nine provinces, the compliance level for 1067 completed household water projects was only 2.6% – more than 97% of the projects did not comply with policy requirements, norms and standards. The compliance level for 517 completed household sanitation projects was 0% – that is, none of the completed household sanitation projects complied with policy requirements, norms and standards (CSIR, 2007).
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Figures collated by the Rural Water Supply Network in 2007 indicate an average rate of 36% non-functionality for hand pumps across 21 countries. This level of failure represents a total investment of between $1.2 and $1.5 billion in the last 20 years. (Triple-S, 2009)
  • Ghana: In a study in rural areas, 60% of new latrines (0-2 years) are being used (Rodgers, 2007).
  • Haiti: In Port-de-Paix there were no functioning public water sources in the city and 14 of 19 different sites throughout the city that investigators tested for water quality were bacterially contaminated (Center for Human Rights & Global Justice, 2007).
  • Ethiopia: It has been estimated that 33% of rural water supply schemes are non-functional at any time (MoWR, 2007) (per Deneke & Abebe, 2008).
  • Germany: In Baden-Württemberg, 523 samples from approximately 13,500 private wells were analysed in 2007; non-compliance rates for E. coli (an indicator of fecal contamination) and total coliforms were at 18% and 43%, respectively (WHO, 2011).
  • Macedonia: Local piped water supply systems, used by 54% of the rural population, had a bacteriological failure rate of 23%. Local (non-piped) water sources, used by 13% of the population had a bacteriological failure rate of 30% (WHO, 2011).
  • Malawi: 49% of all gravity flow system taps were not working (National Water Point Mapping, reported in Bauman & Danert, 2008)
  • Ethiopia: 60% of the Somali region’s birkado [cement-lined underground cisterns] are damaged and unused, calling into question the building of new birkado versus rehabilitating existing structures. (Nassef & Belayhun, 2012)


  • Uganda: 17% of rural improved water points were non-functional (MWE, Republic of Uganda, 2006)
  • Ethiopia: A survey found that 29% of handpumps and 33% of mechanized boreholes in rural areas were not functioning because of maintenance problems. (UNDP, 2006)
  • Rwanda: An estimated one-third of the rural water infrastructure requires urgent rehabilitation (UNDP, 2006)


  • Zimbabwe:  Out of 817 deep boreholes, 65% were estimated to be out of order (Waterkeyn & Cairncross, 2005)
  • Uganda: 18% of rural improved water points were non-functional (MWE, Republic of Uganda, 2006)
  • Swaziland: 22.9% (national) and 27.9% (Lubombo region, the study area) of the water schemes were non-functional (Government of Swaziland, Rural Water Supply Board, 2005).
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Almost 40% of sub-Saharan handpumps are not working (Sutton, 2005).
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: It has been estimated that between 20% and 70% of installed handpumps are not functioning – see Figure 1 below. (RWSN)
Handpump failures in sub-Saharan Africa (source: RWSN)

Handpump failures in sub-Saharan Africa (source: RWSN)


  • Sub-Saharan Africa: In a study of 11 countries, a range of 35-80% (on the country) of rural water systems were identified as functional (Sutton, 2004)
  • Uganda: 20% of rural improved water points were non-functional (MWE, Republic of Uganda, 2006)
  • Kenya: In western Kenya, nearly 50% of borehole wells dug in the 1980s, and subsequently maintained using a community-based maintenance model,
    had fallen into disrepair by 2000 (Miguel & Gugerty, 2004).
  • Ecuador: a sustainability study conducted by the Secretariat for Water found that 13% of the systems were sustainable, 29% with mild problems, 20% with severe problems, and 38% broken down (mentioned in OAS)
  • Peru: In Loreto Region, it is estimated that 66% of water systems function and 42% provide potable water, while 15% of latrines are considered usable (Calderon, J., 2004. Agua y saneamiento: El caso del Perú rural. Lima, Peru: ITDG.)
  • India: a quarter of India’s water infrastructure is believed to be in need of repair (Ray, I., 2004, “Water for all? Peri-urban and rural water delivery options: The case of India.” Presentation: UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group Fall Colloquium Series, 6 October)
  • South Asia: The World Development Report  estimates that more than one-third of existing rural water infrastructure is not functional (World Bank, 2004)


  • Uganda: 30% of rural improved water points were non-functional (MWE, Republic of Uganda, 2006)
  • Peru: In a study of 104 rural water systems, only 32% were deemed “sustainable”; 66% were deteriorated and 2% were broken down (WSP, 2003).
  • England & Wales: An analysis of data collected from 150 local water authorities covering approximately 35,000 microbial water quality results for approximately 11,200 private water supply sites from 1996–2003 showed that E. coli (an indicator of fecal contamination) was detected in 19% of samples, with at least one positive sample being detected at 32% of water supply sites (compared to 0.1% of samples from mains water supplies) (WHO, 2011).


  • Peru: a study by the National Water and Sanitation Programme (Pronasar 2001) revealed only 34.7% of rural water supply systems in rural areas was in good or fair condition (per CARE / WSP, 2005).


  • South Africa: At any time, approximately 50% of handpumps are not working (Hazelton, 2000).


  • Czech Republic: Water quality data from approximately 1700 small public groundwater well supplies and 3300 private wells from the period 1991–1998 showed there was a non-compliance rate with health-related parameters of approximately 70% (WHO, 2011).


  • Scotland: Out of 1750 samples taken from private water supplies in Scotland between 1992 and 1998, 41% failed compliance for total coliforms, 30% failed for E. coli and 15% failed for nitrate. The combined failure rate was 48% (WHO, 2011).


  • Malawi: In 1997, a survey almost 900 tapstands found that less than 50% of the them were supplying water. This indicated a significant decline since the early 1980s when surveys showed over 90% functioning (Kleemeier, 2000).


  • Ghana:By the late 1980s and early 1990s, 33% of the water supply systems had deteriorated greatly or completely broken down due to inadequate funding to carry out maintenance and rehabilitation (Ghana Water Company).


India: Evaluation of a representative sample of 10 water points found that consumers are not receiving protected water of the required quality in any scheme evaluated (Somayajulu, B.V.S., and Rao, Y.R., 1990)

1985 and before

failure quote

(USAID, 1981. The Role of Women as Participants & Beneficiaries in Water Supply & Sanitation Programs)

Uganda: In 1980, UNICEF funded a national inventory of boreholes and found that, out of a national stock of 5,089, only 25% were working. An extensive rehabilitation program was undertaken, but three years later the percentage of working pumps had only increased to 32.2% (IRC, 1993).

13 thoughts on “Statistics on Water & Sanitation Failures”

  1. Gary W Dancer said:

    I am very sad to read these figures.I am presently leding a project in Western Nepal and have attempted to secure its future by appointing a committee of local people to oversee the maintenance of plant etc when finished.I feel it is essential to have as much local input as possible.

  2. RANJIT K VERMA PP said:

    We need to educate on the causes of the failures. We should take extra precautionary steps to ensure sustainability.

  3. RANJIT K VERMA PP said:

    These reasons are good. But there are also factors such as:
    1) lack of sustainability of the aquifer (depletion of water levels on account of over exploitation of under ground water) There should be simultaneous and proper ongoing recharging of the underground water resources in absence of which the soil structure changes leading to its lessened water holding capacity next time the rain water goes down.
    2) Alienation from the project (Beneficiaries don’t get much involved much in the responsibility of maintenance).

  4. Thank you for compiling this data!!! It is a great resource and I appreciate your work!

  5. Thanasius Sitolo said:

    Good work though I would suggest the article takes official statistics in Malawi. For example, water point functionality in December 2013 was at 75 percent as reported by Sector Performance Report (GoM, 2013)

  6. Will Wanjala said:

    Great work though given figures in Kenya do not reflect the actual picture on the ground in rural areas!

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