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Guatemala is part of:
Central America · Latin America and Caribbean ·
Water Basins of Guatemala:
Candelaria · Chamelecon · Coatan Achute · El Naranjo · Grijalva · Hondo · Lempa · Motaqua · Paz · Sarstun · Suchiate ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Guatemala City
Neighbouring Countries Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico
Total Area 108,890 km2
  - Water 460 km2 (0.42%) / 42 m2/ha
  - Land 108,430 km2
Coastline 400 km
Population 12,599,060 (116 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.423 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 55.1 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $36,280 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $5,400
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 20,406 km2 (18.82%)
     - Arable 14,334 km2 (13.22%)
     - Permanent Crops 6,072 km2 (5.6%)
     - Irrigated 1,300 km2
  - Non cultivated 87,832 km2 (81.18%)
Average Annual RainfallD 1996 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 111.3 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 2.01 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 80%
  - For Domestic Use 6%
  - For Industrial Use 13%
  - Per Capita 180 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 95%
     - Urban population 99%
     - Rural population 92%
  - Improved Sanitation 86%
     - Urban population 90%
     - Rural population 82%
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



Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Guatemala is rich in water resources, primarily from streams and lakes. However, surface water is unevenly distributed, seasonal, and often polluted. Where water availability is low, the population is dense. The opposite is true where water is abundant.

Guatemala has three drainage basins that capture the country’s significant streams. The Pacific Basin is the smallest, occupying 25% of the country. Guatemala’s longest stream, Rio Motagua, drains into the Caribbean Sea Basin, which occupies 35% of the country. The Gulf of Mexico Basin is the largest in Guatemala, occupying 40% of the country. This basin drains the northwestern part of the country and is home to Embalse Chixoy, Guatemala’s largest reservoir.

The country has around 20 lakes, five of which are significant. These are Lago de Izabal, the largest lake in Guatemala; El Golfete; Lago de Atitlan; Lago Peten Itza; and Lago de Amatitlan. Lago de Amatitlan is located 20 kilometers south of Guatemala City, and receives half of the city’s domestic and industrial runoff. Because it is so polluted, Amatitlan is considered a dead lake.

Water use is divided among the agricultural (80%), industrial (13%), and domestic (7%) sectors. Surface water supplies about 70% of the public’s needs in urban areas and 90% in rural areas. Both surface and groundwater sources meet industrial and commercial needs. Demand from the agricultural sector is met by surface water sources but will eventually have to shift to groundwater due to decreasing supply of surface resources.

Ninety-eight percent of the urban population and 88% of the rural population have access to an improved water source. Improved water sources include household connections, public standpipes, boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs, and rainwater collection.

Water resources are stressed by growing demand. Deforestation and agricultural pressure on marginal farmlands have accelerated soil erosion, which degrades the water quality of Guatemala’s streams. Contamination by biological and chemical agents occurs in varying degrees throughout the country. This problem is compounded by the limited capacity of sewage systems in urban centers; raw effluents flow directly into the streams.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

The Constitution defines all water as inalienable, non-forfeitable assets in the public domain. The use of water for purposes of development must be in the service of the community and not any private person. The use of water, rivers, and lakes for agriculture and other industries contributing to the development of the national economy is the right of the public and no one particular person. The Constitution also calls for a general water law to regulate the water sector.

Guatemala does not have a national policy or law governing water resources, although there have been negotiations over a draft law for over 20 years. Legal treatment of water-related issues is addressed somewhat throughout the civil, penal, labor, health, and municipal codes. In the absence of a national law, some municipalities have adopted their own policies and codes.

Under Article 68 of the Municipal Code Law, municipalities are responsible for the provision of potable water, sanitation and other public services.

Guatemalan laws surrounding water-use are contradictory and often confusing. Under the Constitution, water is in the public domain. However, the Civil Code recognizes water as private property. Other laws treat the resource as public or private, depending on the ownership of the land on which the water is located.

Construction of the Chixoy Dam in the 1980s led to the violent displacement of approximately 3500 indigenous residents. According to some reports, many of those displaced have yet to be adequately compensated for loss of land, including loss of access to communal lands, and losses due to downstream flooding.

Institutional Framework

No permanent national water authority exists for water supply. Many other governmental agencies and organizations administer potable water supply and sanitation services.

The National Commission of Coordination of Water Resources (CONAGUA) is a temporary institution created by Governmental Agreement Number 19-2005. CONAGUA is responsible for the promotion and coordination of the National Water Policy, including the development of general water use and handling regulations and regulatory policies.

The Institute of Municipal Development (INFOM) supports municipal governments in providing infrastructure and public services. In 1997, INFOM was charged with the implementation of water sector policies.

In coordination with the municipalities, the Ministry of Public Health and Assistance (MSPAS) is responsible for overseeing and regulating water quality and service delivery. Additionally, MSPAS develops sanitation norms.

Municipalities administer public services, including water services. Each of Guatemala’s 333 municipalities is responsible for supplying water and for maintaining water quality. Most Guatemalan municipalities have weak administrative, technical and human resource capacity.

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

The World Bank financed a US $50 million Second Social Investment Fund (1998–2003), of which 14% was dedicated to improving water and sanitation. According to the World Bank, the project improved the water sector infrastructure and improved women’s access to water.

The provision of water supplies has been a common development effort by donors and NGOs alike. Examples have included construction of small irrigation systems, capture of water from streams in the highlands with distribution to nearby communities, and the drilling of wells and capturing of springs in rural areas.

The UNESCO-IHE Institute of Water Education is implementing a project called Training and Development for the Integrated Management of the Water Resources in the West of Guatemala. The purpose of the project is to coordinate the many interests involved in Guatemala’s water management.


Recently updated articles on Guatemala
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See the complete list of WaterWiki articles on Guatemala

Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Guatemala

(this is a list of the 15 most recently updated entries. To see all projects click here)

  1. Capacity Building amongst the MAM People in Economic Water and Sanitation Governance, Guatemala ‎(2,413 views) . . WikiBot
  2. Strengthening environmental governance in the face of climatic risks in Guatemala ‎(2,225 views) . . WikiBot
  3. Safe Drinking Water in Colonia Belen, Tacana, San Marcos ‎(2,351 views) . . WikiBot
  4. Safe drinking water system for 68 households in community La Piedad II, San Felipe, Retalhuleu ‎(1,769 views) . . WikiBot
  5. Rain harvesting for providing drinking water to Aldea Vasquez, Totonicapan ‎(3,085 views) . . WikiBot
  6. Establishing mini-irrigation for organic traditional farming ‎(2,524 views) . . WikiBot
  7. Establishing a water treatment plant for the benefit of coffee growing ‎(2,649 views) . . WikiBot
  8. Establishing mini-irrigation for organic farm land in Aldea Taltimiche, Comitancillo, San Marcos ‎(2,842 views) . . WikiBot

Case studies in or about Guatemala

(by popularity)

  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Lempa River Basin ‎(10,985 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. The Case of the Trifinio Plan in the Upper Lempa: Opportunities and Challenges for the Shared Management of Central American Transnational Basins ‎(10,921 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented projects in Guatemala


5 most recently updated publications on Guatemala
  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Lempa River Basin ‎(10,985 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. The Case of the Trifinio Plan in the Upper Lempa: Opportunities and Challenges for the Shared Management of Central American Transnational Basins ‎(10,921 views) . . Katy.norman

5 most popular publications on Guatemala
  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Lempa River Basin ‎(10,985 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. The Case of the Trifinio Plan in the Upper Lempa: Opportunities and Challenges for the Shared Management of Central American Transnational Basins ‎(10,921 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented publications on Guatemala

Who is Who

People working in Guatemala
  1. Estuardo Velasquez ‎(2,794 views)
  2. Diana Zamorra ‎(2,483 views)

See the complete list of Waterwiki users working in Guatemala

Organizations working in Guatemala

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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented organizations in Guatemala


See also

External Resources

"Water Supply and Sanitation in Guatemala" on Wikipedia

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