We examine how national targets change with time and show that no consistent pattern exists across all countries examined for this article during the 1980–2013 period. Instead, countries fall into different trend types including constant, increasing, and decreasing national targets with time. We found that level of coverage is one likely factor in determining the national target of a country, where countries with low coverage levels set lower national targets compared to countries with high levels of coverage. In general, most countries set ambitious national targets that require the future rate of change to be more than 20% greater than the current rate. Setting ambitious targets is related to greater progress in increasing coverage, as long as the national target does not require countries to more than triple their current rate of change. Changes in national standards of safe water were shown to have occurred, where improved technology type was not used in national standards in 1994 but was present in 2011 and 2013. Comparison of national and international targets suggests that international targets may influence national targets, with approximately 70% of countries having national targets equal to, higher than, or converging towards international targets.

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