Improving drinking water supply and sanitation

Programme description

Title: Programme to improve efficiency in the drinking water supply and sanitation sectors (PROATAS)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Nicaragua
Lead executing agency: Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (MINREX)
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Overall term: 2011 to 2018

Cliente ENACAL comp: A customer making use of the water utility’s improved service. Copyright: GIZ/Proatas


Nicaragua managed to meet its drinking water target under the Millennium Development Goals: the country reduced the proportion of the population with no access to clean drinking water by half. In some cases, however, the water supply is still affected by severe shortages. In many areas, this precious resource flows through the pipes for just a few hours, and only on certain days of the week. While the state water utility, which provides three million people with drinking water, has improved its service, this does not benefit the entire country. Only a small number of water treatment plants are currently being operated in accordance with proper standards by the responsible state utility. Large amounts of wastewater continue to flow directly into rivers and lakes – a burden for the environment and the people. Extreme weather events such as the 2014 and 2015 droughts caused by El Niño, which resulted in drastic reductions in precipitation during the rainy season, have made the provision of safe drinking water even more difficult. At present, the institutions concerned only have the capacity to take initial steps towards integrated water resources management.


Water resources management and the municipal drinking water supply and sanitation systems are improved.


Until the end of 2015, the programme focused its advisory support on four regional branches of the state water utility (Masaya, Rivas, Boaco and Chontales) and its head office in Managua. In cooperation with the National Water Authority and municipal authorities, the programme developed new approaches and methods for managing water resources in two water catchment areas (in the Rivas and Chontales regions). Since the beginning of 2016, the programme and its partners have been expanding their activities to cover additional municipalities and catchment areas. Work focuses on the following:

  • Municipal drinking water supply and wastewater treatment
    The programme is assisting the state water utility (ENACAL) with a view to improving water supply and sanitation in urban areas. This advisory support set modernisation and reorganisation processes in motion, leading to improvements in the company’s service delivery and financial situation. ENACAL is now transferring the processes that were successfully introduced to eleven other municipalities with the programme’s support. New drinking water and wastewater treatment plants are under construction in these municipalities, and are being financed by international donors within the context of the national water programme.

  • Integrated water resources management
    Within two water catchment areas, the programme is advising local authorities, the new water committees and the National Water Authority (ANA). The primary focus is on further steps towards realising the water resources management plan. The plan includes climate-sensitive measures geared to improving the condition of water resources as well as their sustainable use. Integrated water resources management methods that have been successfully tested in the two programme areas are being transferred to one of the economically most important catchment areas in the north-western part of the country. Advisory services were extended beyond the municipal authorities to include other key sector institutions.

  • Policy advice
    The mandates and responsibilities of the institutions concerned with wastewater management have been clarified. The programme is now assisting the Ministry of the Environment (MARENA) and the state water utility (ENACAL) with monitoring and regulating the discharge of wastewater into surface water. A digital online monitoring system is being established within the Ministry of the Environment for this purpose.

Fortbildung IWRM: Training on water resources monitoring for municipal environmental engineers


Within its four regional branches, the state water utility has succeeded in providing 110,000 people with clean drinking water for around ten hours per day – previously it was a mere two hours on average. The number of illegal connections to the supply network has dropped considerably. The water utility was able to attract 13,000 new customers. The annual revenues of the utility’s regional branches within the municipalities have more than doubled due to improvements in the commercial area and as a result of better management. Cost coverage has increased on average from 42 to 60 per cent.

The programme team has worked together with 16 wastewater treatment plants. These now comply to a greater extent with environmental standards in their operations, which has improved the quality of the water discharged from the plants.

A five-year management plan was established in the two water catchment areas. More than one third of the planned activities have already been implemented by the municipal authorities. All of the activities were designed with the goal of achieving sustainable use of water resources and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. In both areas the programme helped to set up water user committees, which comprise representatives of the municipalities, private sector and civil society. Following this example, the National Water Authority adopted a directive which serves as a basis for establishing water user committees across the country. The municipal environment and water divisions are monitoring the quality and quantity of water resources in the two catchment areas. This enables them to determine negative changes in the water regime and react with specific climate-sensitive measures.

The various institutions in the water sector have been presented with the initial draft of a document which specifies the responsibilities at the interface between authorities and institutions with regard to implementing the water law passed in 2010.

Further information