Water supply and sanitation in Bolivia

Water supply and sanitation in Bolivia

Bolivia’s water and sanitation coverage has greatly improved since 1990 due to a considerable increase in sectoral investment. However, the country continues to suffer from what happens to be the continent’s lowest coverage levels as well as from low quality of services. Political and institutional instability have contributed to the weakening of the sector’s institutions at the national and local levels. Two concessions to foreign private companies in two of the three largest cities - Cochabamba and La Paz/El Alto – were prematurely ended in 2000 and 2006 respectively. The country’s second largest city, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, relatively successfully manages its own water and sanitation system by way of cooperatives. The new government of Evo Morales intends to strengthen citizen participation within the sector. Increasing coverage requires a substantial increase of investment financing, which has recently declined.


"Source": Joint Monitoring Program WHO/UNICEF( [http://www.wssinfo.org/en/welcome.html JMP] /2006). Data for [http://www.wssinfo.org/pdf/country/BOL_wat.pdf water] and [http://www.wssinfo.org/pdf/country/BOL_san.pdf sanitation] based on the Housing Survey (2002), Boliva Democratic and Health Survey (2003), and Survey of Multiple Indicators by Conglomerates ("Encuesta de Multiples Indicadores por Conglomerados", 2000).

The lowest levels of coverage are found in the departments of Pando, Potosí, and Oruro.

Quality of service

The quality of service in the majority of the country’s water and sanitation systems is low. In 2000, according to the WHO, in only 26% of the urban systems water was disinfected [ OMS/OPS 2000 ] and only 25% of the collected wastewater was treated. [ Plan Nacional de Saneamiento 2001, p. 33 [http://www.sias.gov.bo/archivos/PlanNalSBv1.pdf] ]

Recent developments

In the last decades, frequent changes of government resulted in several restructurings of the institutional framework to face the problems of the sector. Consequently, it seems difficult to draw up a long-term continuous and sustainable sector policy.

The 1990s: Privatization and regulation

In 1999, during the second mandate of Hugo Banzer (1997-2001), the sectoral institutional framework law (Law 2029) established the legal framework for the sector that is in force today. It allows for private sector participation and formalized SISAB as a regulator (SISAB replaced the former Superintendencia de Agua created in 1997). During that period two major concessions for water and sanitation were granted to the private sector: One in La Paz/El Alto to the Aguas de Illimani S.A. (AISA), a subsidiary of the French Suez (formerly Lyonnaise des Eaux) in 1997; and a second one in Cochabamba to Aguas de Tunari, a subsidiary of the multinationals Biwater and Bechtel in 1999.

Following two popular uprisings against water privatization, the first in Cochabamba in April 2000 and the second in La Paz/El Alto in January 2005, which centered on natural gas concessions, the two water concessions were terminated. In the latter case, Aguas de Illimani was replaced by the public utility Empresa Pública Social de Agua y Saneamiento (EPSAS), which came under severe criticism in 2008 due to water shortages, accounting errors, tariff increases and poor disaster preparedness. Consequently, representatives of the La Paz neighborhood association announced to create their own service provider. [cite news
title=EPSAS recibe críticas a su labor y la transición agrava el problema.
publisher=es icon La Razón

The Bolivian Norm NB 688, an important technical norm for the design and construction of sewage and sanitation, was revised in 2001. [ PAS Nota de Campo [http://www.wsp.org/filez/pubs/normas_bolivianas.pdf] ] The revised norm permits the installation of more efficient and of lower cost condominial sewerage systems and helps to increase sanitation coverage with limited funds.

Furthermore, the Government defined the National Plan for Basic Sanitation Services 2001-2010 to increase the water and sanitation access to improve the quality of service and promote their sustainability. [ Plan Nacional de Saneamiento 2001 [http://www.sias.gov.bo/archivos/PlanNalSBv1.pdf] ]

Evo Morales government: popular participation

In 2006 the MAS won the elections and Evo Morales became President of the Republic. "Water cannot be a private business because it converts it into a merchandise and thus violates human rights. Water is a resource and should be a public service," emphasized the President elect Evo Morales. [ Adital [http://www.adital.com.br/site/noticia.asp?lang=ES&cod=20720] ] The new president created the Water Ministry (see below) and nominated a leader of the protests in El Alto against Aguas de Illimani as the country's first Water Minister. He nominated Luis Sánchez-Gómez Cuquerella, who was formerly an activist of the struggle against the privatization in Cochabamba, as Vice-Minister of Basic Services.

The Government of Evo Morales considers passing a new water and sanitation services law called “Water for Life”. According to Vice-Minister Rene Orellana, this new legal framework would eliminate the SISAB and introduce a decentralized regulator in its place. Regulatory taxes would be eliminated along with the legal concept of the concession. A preferential electricity tariff would be introduced for EPSAs and community water rights would be strengthened. [ [http://www.aguabolivia.org/analisisX/LEGISLACIONAGUAS/AGUAPARALAVIDA.html Agua Bolivia1] and [http://www.aguabolivia.org/fe/ForoAguaVida/comentario2.html Agua Bolivia2] ]

Responsibilities for water and sanitation

The sector’s institutional framework is the Law #2029 of 1999, or Water and Sanitation Services Law, revised in 2000 as Law #2066. As mentioned above in “Recent Developments”, the Morales Government is contemplating a new water and sanitation services law, named “Water for Life”.


President Evo Morales created the Ministry of Water in January 2006, which unified responsibilities of three different Ministries:

* Water and sanitation were under the responsibility of the Vice-Minister of Basic Sanitation Vice-Ministerio de Saneamiento Básico (VSB) of the now defunct Ministry of Housing and Basic Services Ministerio de Vivienda y Servicios Básicos.
* Irrigation was under the Ministry of Rural Affairs Ministerio de Asuntos Campesinos;
* The Ministry of the Environmental managed water resources.

These functions were attributed to three Vice-Ministries in the new Ministry of Water:

* Vice-Ministry of Basic Services
* Vice-Ministry of River Basins and Hydraulic Resources
* Vice-Ministry of Irrigation [ [http://www.sias.gov.bo/vsb.historia.asp VSB] ]


Regulation of urban water companies is undertaken by the [http://www.sisab.gov.bo Agency for the Supervision of Basic Sanitation (SISAB)] , which grants concessions and licenses and establishes the principles to set prices, tariffs, taxes, and quotas. [ Law #2029 [http://www.sias.gov.bo/vsb.leyes_a01.asp VSB] ] Other Latin American regulatory agencies normally do not grant service concessions, which are usually granted by municipalities. The Morales Government plans to dissolve the SISAB.

Provision of services

In urban areas, municipal governments (either directly or through decentralized companies) are in charge of service provision as well as the development of plans and programs for service expansion in areas under their jurisdiction, in coordination with departmental governments.

In some cities, cooperatives (utilities owned by their consumers) are in charge of water supply and sanitation service provision. SAGUAPAC in Santa Cruz is the largest consumer cooperative utility in the world; its performance indicators place it among the best WSS utilities in Latin America. [ Mier and Van Ginneken, 2006 [http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWSS/Resources/WN5cooperatives.pdf] ]

The country has 9 departments and 327 municipalities. It also has 14 water and sanitation providers, which are called Empresas Prestadores de Servicios de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado (EPSA) in the largest cities. In 1982, the EPSAs have formed the National Association of Water and Sewage Companies (ANESAPA).

In rural areas Juntas or Water Committees are in charge of operating and maintaining the systems.

Financial aspects


In the 1980s investment in the sector was below US$20 million per year. Starting in 1990, this average increased to approximately US$40 million. [WSP] In 1999, when US$69.4 million were invested the annual investment reached its peak. After 2000 investments dropped back again (see table below) [Source: Vice Ministry of public investment and external financing]

ImageSize = width:auto height:240 barincrement:40PlotArea = left:40 right:900 height:200 bottom:20AlignBars = late

DateFormat = x.yPeriod = from:0 till:80.0TimeAxis = orientation:verticalScaleMajor = gridcolor:tan1 increment:10 start:0

PlotData= color:blue width:15 bar:1996 from:start till:53.7 bar:1997 from:start till:47.4 bar:1998 from:start till:54.1 bar:1999 from:start till:69.4 bar:2000 from:start till:64.5 bar:2001 from:start till:45.0 bar:2002 from:start till:27.9 bar:2003 from:start till:23.0 bar:2004 from:start till:49.6 bar:2005 from:start till:42.4 bar:2006 from:start till:33.4

TextData= pos:(60,225) fontsize:M text: Annual investment in water supply and sanitation in million US$

Sources of financing

Between 1992-2000, 58% of investments were externally financed (mainly from the IDB, World Bank, Japanese JICA and the German KfW), 17% by municipal governments, 8% by the private sector and 17% by departmental governments. [ Plan Nacional de Saneamiento 2001, p. 24-25 [http://www.sias.gov.bo/archivos/PlanNalSBv1.pdf] ]

Financing mechanisms

In 2004 the Government of President Carlos Mesa defined a new Sectoral Financial Policy. The EPSA would receive credits and transfers for investments for participating in a Plan for Institutional Modernization (PMI) and establishing an Integral Development Plan (PID). Resources are assigned to each EPSA with priority to those with larger poverty levels and lower levels of coverage, according to a mathematic formula called Asignador Financiero Sectoral (AFS). The subsidies are higher and the conditions of loans less onerous to the EPSA with lower coverage and higher levels of coverage. [ Política Financiera del Sector 2004 [http://www.sias.gov.bo/archivos/taller01/DS27487_PolFinSec.pdf] ] The National Fund for Regional Development (FNDR) is the Government’s instrument for the targeting of loans destined for water and sanitation investments.

The Foundation for the Support to Sustainable Basic Sanitation (FUNDASAB) channels technical assistance to services in order to promote their sustainability.

External support


* [http://www.gtz.de/en/weltweit/lateinamerika-karibik/bolivien/5642.htm GTZ-supported project Drinking water supply and sanitation in small and medium-sized cities] , see also GTZ
* The development bank KfW provides funds for infrastructure improvements and institutional development of water utility companies.

Interamerican Development Bank

* [http://www.iadb.org/projects/Project.cfm?project=BO0175&Language=English BO0175 : Basic Sanitation for Small Municipalities] Approved on December 8, 1999, the US$40 million loan focuses on increasing quality and coverage of basic water and sanitation services in rural communities less than 1,000.

World Bank

* [http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=64283627&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P083979 Bolivia Urban Infrastructure Project] Approved on November 21, 2006, the US$30 million loan is aimed at improving access to basic services to urban poor and is directed towards sewerage (43%) and flood protection (7%).


ee also

* Electricity sector in Bolivia
* Irrigation in Bolivia
* Water resources management in Bolivia

External links

* [http://www.sias.gov.bo/ Viceministerio de Servicios Básicos]
* [http://www.sisab.gov.bo/ SISAB]
* [http://www.anesapa.org/ ANESAPA]
* [http://www.wsp.org/regions/region.asp?id=3#Bolivia/ Programa de Agua y Saneamiento Bolivia]

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