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Report on the affordability of water and sanitation services

Issued by

Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation


05 August 2015


Pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 27/7 of 2014, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr. Léo Heller, was mandated to work on identifying challenges and obstacles to the full realization of the rights, as well as protection gaps, good practices and enabling factors.

On 16 June 2015, the Special Rapporteur held an expert consultation with experts on affordability, human rights and water and sanitation from various fields.


Access to affordable water and sanitation services is crucial for the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation. Yet, the issue of affordability does not always get the attention it deserves. This report seeks to address this gap and to define affordability from the perspective of human rights.

It discusses the importance of setting concrete standards to determine affordability, including for those populations that do not receive formal services. It puts affordability in the broader context of ensuring environmental and economic sustainability, and discusses the impact of disconnections as a result of inability to pay.

The report also looks at who benefits from public financing in current practice, and then considers a variety of different mechanisms to ensure affordability of services for all through public financing and devising appropriate tariff schemes, including their advantages and challenges.

Finally, the report discusses the importance of regulating and monitoring affordability before providing conclusions and recommendations.