For water and sanitation, the blanket pattern of universal coverage in industrialized countries has a few small holes. In rural areas of Latvia and Hungary, 4 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively, still have no access to improved drinking-water sources.
In many of the European countries with transitional economies, water and sanitation infrastructure still needs to be developed or improved. And all industrialized countries face a substantial challenge in financing the replacement of decaying and leaking infrastructure, which is long overdue for renovation in many cases.
Most countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are seeking to finance this renewal of water piping and sewerage by introducing water-pricing schedules that reflect the full marginal costs of providing services for households and industry. In many cases, they have sought to implement measures ensuring access for low-income groups. This kind of targeted service for vulnerable groups is vital, since pockets of deprivation in water and sanitation coverage are otherwise too easily ignored amid the near-universal levels of provision.
Official development assistance (ODA) from industrialized countries directed to water and sanitation showed a sharp increase in 2004, though largely explained by the United States programme for reconstruction in Iraq. Donor bilateral commitments from OECD Development Assistance Committee members in 2004 for all countries were about $3 billion, and multilateral commitments amounted to $1.8 billion.
However, there is no sign of increased prioritization of the water sector as such. The share of aid to water supply and sanitation in Development Assistance Committee members’ total ODA allocable by sector dropped from the 1999–2000 level of 8 per cent to a 2001–2002 level of 6 per cent, where it remained in 2003–2004. France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States were the largest country donors for the sector in 2004.