Granting safe water access worldwide is a major objective of the Sustainable Development Goals. Water access is a manifold concept that encompasses collection time, distance from the household, water quality, affordability, and reliability of water sources, among other factors. GIS-based methods can be particularly useful in improving water access estimates, particularly in rural areas of developing countries. Based on an extensive water point database (n
= 770), this paper explores the main challenges involved in mapping water access in two rural communes of Burkina Faso. Water access is estimated in terms of coverage per surface area. Coverage is filtered into four distinct categories of improved water sources, namely existing infrastructures, operational infrastructures, permanent infrastructures, and permanent infrastructures that provide safe water. The outcomes suggest that the study area is better endowed with water access than rural Burkina Faso and the remainder of the African continent, although there are important questions regarding groundwater quality. The outcomes highlight the conceptual differences between coverage and access, as well as some of the practical difficulties involved in estimating water access beyond standard ratios. The shortcomings include the absence of continuous monitoring of infrastructure functionality and water quality, as well as water affordability, among others. Enhancing national borehole databases with items aligned with the United Nations’ definition of water access is recommended.
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