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Bolivia is part of:
Latin America and Caribbean · South America ·
Water Basins of Bolivia:
Amazon · Cancoso-Lauca · La Plata · Lake Titicaca-Poopo · Zapaleri ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital La Paz (administrative)
Neighbouring Countries Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru
Total Area 1,098,580 km2
  - Water 14,190 km2 (1.29%) / 129 m2/ha
  - Land 1,084,390 km2
Coastline 0 km
Population 9,182,015 (8.4 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.723 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 60.1 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $18,940 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $4,700
National UN Presence FAO, UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, UNIDO
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 32,206 km2 (2.97%)
     - Arable 30,146 km2 (2.78%)
     - Permanent Crops 2,060 km2 (0.19%)
     - Irrigated 1,320 km2
  - Non cultivated 5,115 km2 (97.03%)
Average Annual RainfallD 1146 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 622.5 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 1.439 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 81%
  - For Domestic Use 13%
  - For Industrial Use 7%
  - Per Capita 173 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 85%
     - Urban population 95%
     - Rural population 68%
  - Improved Sanitation 46%
     - Urban population 60%
     - Rural population 22%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

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> Sector Assessment | Sector Coordination | Donor Profile

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Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Bolivia has abundant freshwater resources. The country is home to Lake Titicaca and Lake Poopo and has three large basins: the Amazonian Basin, covering 66% of the country’s territory; the closed basin of the Altiplano, covering 13% of the territory; and the Río de la Plata Basin, which covers 21% of the country’s territory. Bolivia has 304 cubic kilometers of internal renewable water resources (surface water and groundwater) and 34,867 cubic kilometers of internal renewable water resources per capita. Bolivia’s water resources are not evenly distributed: the Cochabamba Valley and the Altiplano receive little rain and have very long dry seasons.

The country’s population uses 0.4% of the available water resources. Roughly 81% of extracted water in Bolivia is used for agricultural purposes, 12% for domestic purposes, and 7% for commercial and industry. Four percent of the cropped land in Bolivia is irrigated; water for irrigation is delivered through canal and ditch systems. Bolivia has five reservoirs and large hydroelectric dams.

Bolivia’s water carries high levels of waterborne disease as a result of poor management of mining and hydrocarbon extraction, agro-toxins, pesticides, and solid waste. Around 40% of Bolivia’s population lacks access to safe water. In urban areas, 21% of the population lacks access to an improved water supply, while 79% of the rural population lacks access to an improved water supply. Infrastructural and systematic deficiencies underscore the challenges in the water and sanitation sector; Bolivia has insufficient systems for distributing water and for disposing of grey water and solid wastes, as well as a low number of wastewater treatment plants, which causes environmental damage through contamination of both surface and groundwater.

As Bolivia’s urban and peri-urban populations have continued to grow, competition for water use and distribution has increased, specifically between the demands for domestic use versus agricultural irrigation. Significant imbalances in potable water distribution exist between wealthier enclaves and those that are poor and populated by indigenous people.

Bolivia privatized water utilities between 1997 and 2005. In 2006, the new administration declared water a public trust, stated that its goal was universal access to water, and halted further privatization.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

Bolivia’s 2009 Constitution places responsibility on the government to manage, regulate, protect and plan for adequate and sustainable use of hydrological resources, and to guarantee all inhabitants access to water. Hydrological resources cannot be privatized, although mixed public-private partnerships may be created for the administration of basic services for potable water and sewage. Under the Constitution, the state must recognize and respect traditional community customs regarding water management.

Bolivia’s water resources are regulated by the 1906 Water Law and assorted provisions in more recent legislation, including the Environmental Act, the Mining Code, the Electricity Act, Water and Sanitation Services Law, the Irrigation Law, and the Hydrocarbons Act. Singly and together, Bolivia’s legislation governing water is incomplete, contradictory, and rights are often unclear. The laws provide that landowners have rights to water on their land, subject to the requirements of others; none of the laws provide direction on rights to groundwater resources. Bolivia has made numerous attempts to create a single law to govern water resources, but has been unsuccessful to date.

The Water and Sanitation Services Law No. 2066, and Irrigation Law No. 7828 incorporate recognition, respect, and protection for the traditional and customary rights, uses, practices and management of water resources by indigenous and peasant farm worker communities. In addition, the Paraguay-Parana Waterway Treaty signed in 1992 regulates Bolivia’s only water path to the Atlantic Ocean.

Institutional Framework

Bolivia created the Ministry of Water (Ministerio del Agua) in January 2006 with the overarching aim of protecting the inhabitants’ right to water. The move came in response to strong popular reaction against private water companies in 2000 and 2005. Henceforth, all water companies operating in Bolivia are to be public companies, and are expected to follow an efficient and transparent public model. The ministry is in charge of (a) protecting and managing Bolivia’s water resources, including monitoring the cumulative impact of mining and oil production; (b) improving irrigation; and (c) providing water supply, sanitation and solid waste management services. The ministry also aims to respect traditional knowledge and customs and to protect cultural diversity. Meanwhile, the government is considering a proposed law on water and sanitation services. Under the title ‘Water for Life’, this new legal framework would replace the current water regulating agency with a decentralized one. It would also reform water supply provision to better integrate municipalities and users and to prioritize social values.

The Agency for the Supervision of Basic Sanitation is responsible for regulating the water and sanitation sector. In 2009, the government created the Environmental and Water Resources Ministry, which assumed the authority and responsibilities of the Ministry of Water. This Ministry includes the Vice-Ministry for Biodiversity, Environment, Climate Change and Forest Development and Management.

Municipal governments hold administrative jurisdiction over water and sanitation services through Potable Water and Sewage Systems Service Provider Entities (Entidades Prestadoras de Servicios de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado Sanitario – ESPAs). In rural areas, community management of potable water and sanitation services is usually the responsibility of Potable Water and Sanitation Committees or cooperatives. In indigenous zones, community use and management is usually based on customary practices and governed by elders and traditional leaders.

Government Reforms, Interventions and Investments

Bolivia was one of the first Latin American countries to institutionalize policies and controls for environmental protection and sustainability, including the Kyoto Protocol (1999) and the Environment Act. Bolivian-EU cooperation is focused in large part on sustainable environmental management, including sustainable river basin management.

In March 2005, the government created a National Water Basin Programme as the basis for developing a national policy on water basins that focuses on the decentralized and participatory management of environmental issues and prioritizes the social dimension of basin development plans. The current status of this policy is not clear.

Privatization of the water sector (which occurred in major cities between 1997 and 2005) was highly controversial in Bolivia. In 1999, the Government of Bolivia contracted out the provision of water services to Aguas del Tunari (Waters of the Tunari), a multinational consortium of investors. The switch to privatized services caused water and sewerage rates to triple, which led to violent protests in Cochabamba. Following several months of protests, the Government transferred control of water services to La Coordinadora (The Coordinator), a grassroots coalition. In 2005 the government terminated its contracts with private companies and renationalized the water sector.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Donor Interventions and Investments

The European Union (EU), the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Governments of the Netherlands and Spain, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are engaged in water projects in Bolivia. The World Bank has been assisting the Bolivian government with funding for infrastructure-development in urban areas to plan and upgrade water services.

The Commission for the Integral Management of Water in Bolivia (La Commission para la Gestión Integral del Agua en Bolivia – CGIAB) is a network of NGOs, research organizations and civil society groups devoted to water resources.

As part of its Integrated Alternative Development Program, USAID helped to construct drinking-water systems and bathrooms benefiting over 2000 households in the Yungas region in FY2009.


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Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Bolivia

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Case studies in or about Bolivia

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  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Lake Titicaca Basin ‎(28,145 views) . . Adriana.miljkovic
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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented projects in Bolivia


5 most recently updated publications on Bolivia
  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Lake Titicaca Basin ‎(28,145 views) . . Adriana.miljkovic
  2. Co-operation on the Lake Titicaca ‎(7,952 views) . . Katy.norman

5 most popular publications on Bolivia
  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Lake Titicaca Basin ‎(28,145 views) . . Adriana.miljkovic
  2. Co-operation on the Lake Titicaca ‎(7,952 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented publications on Bolivia

Who is Who

People working in Bolivia

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See the complete list of Waterwiki users working in Bolivia

Organizations working in Bolivia
  1. Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee of La Plata Basin Countries ‎(2,340 views) . . WikiBot
  2. Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization ‎(2,298 views) . . WikiBot

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented organizations in Bolivia


See also

External Resources

"Water Supply and Sanitation in Bolivia" on wikipedia

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