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Ensuring safely managed drinking water for everyone is a global priority. In pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the country of Bangladesh achieved nearly universal access to improved sources of drinking water. (WHO/UNICEF 2017) However improved access targets have long been overshadowed in Bangladesh by uncertainties around water quality and safety, which in turn contributed to the evolution of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets expanding definitions. While improved access is the critical first step on a progressive ladder, SDG 6.1 now addresses multiple intertwined factors of safety, reliability, affordability, equity and functionality that underpin water security. In rural Bangladesh, privately installed water points has contributed significantly to the increase in access; our recent water infrastructure audit in 10 villages found a 230% increase in the number of water points since 2008; this is an increased growth rate from previous academic and government studies (Fischer et al. n.d.; Alexander Van Geen et al. 2014). The government remains determined to expand the provision of public water point infrastructure including deep tubewells and municipal piped water systems. But the uncertainty of water quality, reliability, and affordability attached to these largely unmonitored and privately managed water points pose significant risks to consumers, regulators and service providers striving to achieve the goals of safely managed drinking water systems.

In the context of implementing the SDGs, this paper identifies the need to create information systems which aggregate data inputs from multiple sources, and derive value for multiple purposes. Pathways to do this are explored in the context of water data information systems in Bangladesh. The MDG dependence on household surveys for global reporting is no longer sufficient in isolation to support measurement and implementation of the new risk-based framework. The demand for more ambitious information systems, which not only supports monitoring but also fit-for-purpose designs, is evident. This paper suggests an achievable step is to triangulate household survey data with reconciled administrative and sensor data in support of official statistics, and providers of drinking water services. This paper, originally written as a project scoping document for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (SDSN) Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS), builds on further work with REACH Water Security for the Poor Programme. The intention is to support the process of matching new data technologies with multi-leveled decision-making processes. The SDGs provide the political incentives to explore this in line with the expanding data-driven mechanisms within, and across, multiple levels of state administrative and official statistical systems