Impact Rankings 2021: clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) methodology

April 14, 2021

This ranking focuses on universities’ research related to water, their water usage and their commitment to ensuring good water management in the wider community.

View the methodology for the Impact Rankings 2021 to find out how these data are used in the overall ranking. 


Research on water (27%)

  • Proportion of papers in the top 10 per cent of journals as defined by Citescore (10%)
  • Field-weighted citation index of papers (10%)
  • Number of publications (7%)

This focuses on research that is relevant to clean water and sanitation, measuring the proportion of papers in the top 10 per cent of cited journals, citation impact and the volume of research produced. The field-weighted citation index is a subject-normalised score of the citation performance of publications.

The data are provided by Elsevier’s Scopus dataset and based on a query of keywords associated with SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and supplemented by additional publications identified by artificial intelligence. The dataset includes all indexed publications between 2015 and 2019. The data are normalised across the range using Z-scoring.

Water consumption (19%)

  • Water consumption tracking (9.5%)
  • Water consumption per person (9.5%)

This is defined as the volume of water used per person on campus per year. It includes water used by students and employees and is based on full-time equivalents. The first indicator asks if the university measures the total amount of treated and extracted water used. If it does not measure this value it cannot score for the second indicator.

The data and evidence for these metrics were provided directly by universities and the data are normalised. 

Water usage and care (23%)

  • Process to treat wastewater (4.6%)
  • Process to prevent polluted water entering water system (4.6%)
  • Free drinking water for students, staff and visitors (4.6%)
  • Building standards to minimise water use (4.6%)
  • Plant landscapes to minimise water usage (4.6%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE and not normalised.

Water reuse (12%)

  • Policy to maximise water reuse across university (6%)
  • Measure the reuse of water across university (6%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE and not normalised.

Water in the community (19%)

  • Educational opportunities for local communities to learn about good water management (3.8%)
  • Promote conscious water usage on campus and in wider community (3.8%)
  • Support water conservation off campus (3.8%)
  • Sustainable water extraction technologies on associated university grounds off campus (3.8%)
  • Cooperate with local, regional, national or global governments on water security (3.8%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE and not normalised.


When we ask about policies and initiatives, our metrics require universities to provide the evidence to support their claims. Evidence is evaluated against a set of criteria and decisions are cross-validated where there is uncertainty. Evidence is not required to be exhaustive – we are looking for examples that demonstrate best practice at the institutions concerned.

Time frame

Unless otherwise stated, the data used refer to the closest academic year to January to December 2019.


The ranking is open to any university that teaches at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. Although research activities form part of the methodology, there is no minimum research requirement for participation.

THE reserves the right to exclude universities that they believe have falsified data, or are no longer in good standing.

Data collection

Institutions provide and sign off their institutional data for use in the rankings. On the rare occasions when a particular data point is not provided, we enter a value of zero.

View the full methodology for the THE Impact Rankings 2021 here

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