Cooperation programme for water and sanitation in small and medium cities

Programme description

Title: Cooperation programme for water and sanitation in small and medium cities (PROAPAC)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Bolivia
Lead executing agency: Viceministerio de Agua Potable y Saneamiento Basico
Overall term: 2001 to 2013


At the end of 2008, 75% of the Bolivian population had access to mains drinking water and 50% to wastewater disposal facilities, figures that are very low even by Latin American standards. If criteria such as drinking water quality and treatment of wastewater are taken into account, these figures are lower still, at an estimated 50% and 20% respectively.

Water utilities are structured on a small scale and institutionally under-developed. Their employees lack adequate training, and there is particularly high turnover of staff in administration and management positions. Poor drinking water quality is a contributory factor in an infant mortality rate that is some ten times higher than that in Europe. The water utilities’ position is exacerbated by the fact that some parts of the government advocate a policy of providing water free of charge. The resulting low charges for water, combined with the fact that more than 60% of all investment is financed from outside the country, provide little incentive to maintain facilities.

There have been some positive developments since the fundamental shift in the political framework in 2006, but progress is still hampered by unfavourable external conditions.


The Bolivian Government (at national, departmental and municipal levels), the general population and the water utility companies work together to sustainably improve drinking water supply services and waste water disposal services in selected towns and cities in Bolivia. The services are improved economically, socially and ecologically.


Priority areas under this programme include advice on the regulatory framework (legislation), a sector investment policy geared to sustainability, better performance by water utilities, education in hygiene and environmental awareness, and integrated management of water resources.

The programme advises the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the subordinate vice-ministries, and the regulatory authority on their institutional development and on the further development of a standards and regulatory framework that reflects the new political constitution. The objectives are socially balanced and environmentally sound state supervision of water management, and appropriate drinking water and wastewater services. The dynamics of the new framework for autonomy are to be used decentrally to strengthen the water sector in institutional terms.

A comprehensive range of advisory and training services for water utilities is being created across the country by a national technical and service authority, the Bolivian umbrella organisation for drinking water and wastewater disposal utilities, and other institutional service providers. These services aim to foster institutional sustainability. In individual cases, utility associations are collaborating at inter-municipal level to overcome structural deficits. The programme is providing significant impetus for a decentralised, national system of such associations.

The responsible state implementing agencies, FPS and EMAGUA, are being advised on planning and implementing investment programmes. The project is working technically and organisationally with the ‘Water for small communities and ‘City peripheries’ programmes and is supporting the central processes essential to the success of the programmes at all levels, from the responsible implementing agencies down to the district being supplied. ‘Water for small municipalities’ is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and support is also likely from KfW Entwicklungsbank (KfW Development Bank).

Training in hygiene and environmental awareness and popular participation serve to anchor responsible use of water both politically and socially. Networking of the health and environmental protection sectors, re-use of water for irrigation, resolution of disputes between towns and the surrounding countryside, and education are all supporting implementation of local and national processes for integrated water resource management, partly in collaboration with the agriculture programme.

Results achieved so far

The national water authority has been restructured to reflect the participatory indigenous culture of negotiation and is one of the country’s most highly regarded public institutions.

The Vice Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation allocates investment according to criteria such as utilities’ willingness to modernise, absorption capacity and efficiency, and in accordance with the poverty level of the population in question. The underlying funding policy is being developed by the Vice Ministry after consultation with GIZ and KfW Entwicklungsbank.

Implementation of investment programmes such as ‘Water for small communities’ (which ran between 2008 and 2010 and targeted 60,000 people) has been improved to some extent. The state authorities implementing these programmes have worked more effectively on allocation, authorisation and consultation processes, the quality of construction services, conservation area management, and the institutional framework.

The ability of various water utilities to supply drinking water and sanitation services has been boosted sustainably:

  • In the priority region of Chaco (population around 100,000), the level of water supply and sanitation serves as a model for the rest of the country.
  • In the capital Sucre (population around 400,000), the economic position of the water utility has been improved substantially within two years by boosting organisational and plant efficiency.
  • Support from the water utility EPSAS in La Paz / El Alto and from a number of utilities in Santa Cruz has ensured water supplies for half a million people living in outlying districts.
  • In Oruro (population 200,000), the previously weak water supply company was given institutional support at the outset of the programme. Over 90% of households now have drinking water on tap. In 1997, households had water for only five hours a day; by 2007, this had risen to an average of eleven hours, and the city centre, which has a population of 28,000, now enjoys 24-hour water supplies.

Since 2007, over 350,000 primary school children have taken part in national environmental and hygiene campaigns aimed at more economical use of water and prevention of infectious diseases. A water-saving campaign delivered through an inter-institutional platform has, moreover, reached some two million people since 2008.

Almost 80 projects have been developed in the ‘indigenous women’s groups’ priority area relating to water supply and sanitation, covering some 17,000 people living in rural areas. USD 3.2 million was mobilised for this from an appropriate support programme.

The project has reached more than two million people in all, or some 20% of the total population of Bolivia.

Additional information