PROATAS: Programme of technical assistance in water and sanitation

Programme description

Title: Programme to improve the efficiency of drinking water supply and wastewater treatment
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Co-funded by: European Union (EU), ENACAL, DEZA 
Country: Nicaragua
Lead executing agency: Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Nicaragua (MINREX)
Overall term: 2015 to 2023

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


Nicaragua has 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, especially in dry zones. In many areas, this precious resource flows through the pipes for just a few hours, and only on certain days of the week. Although the state water utility has improved its service, it does not reach all parts of the country. The rural water supply is in a precarious condition.

Wastewater disposal is also inadequate, both in towns and in the countryside. There is a lack of properly operated wastewater treatment plants in major urban centres, and a lack of adapted toilet systems in rural communities. Large quantities of wastewater thus end up untreated in rivers and lakes, causing problems for both the environment and the local population.

Extreme weather events caused by climate change and inadequate management of water resources and wastewater are leading to shortages and conflicts over water use. They are also giving rise to public health hazards and threatening economic development in the affected regions.


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


The programme is helping to establish an environmentally sound, fair and efficient water management system through advisory services and infrastructure measures. In order to improve access to affordable and adequate drinking water and sanitation services in the long term, the project is following the approach of integrated water resource management. This approach addresses the needs of all users and the components of water balance, requirements and demand, supply, water resources protection and climate change adaptation in a water catchment area.

The activities are also leading to an improvement in the services of the national state water utility ENACAL, the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies INETER and the Emergency Social Investment Fund FISE.
The focus is on urban drinking water supply and wastewater disposal, rural drinking water and sanitation supply, and integrated water resources management. In this context, the project offers training courses for employees of the state water utility, supplementing the national investment programme PISASH.

In addition, it supports the rehabilitation of existing drinking water supply systems, the construction of new systems and the installation of adapted latrines in the upper catchment area of the Río Coco. This comprises corresponding hydrological, hydrogeological and geophysical measures, as well as capacity building and awareness raising measures.

To begin with, the project is drawing up a plan for integrated water resources management together with the stakeholders, in particular the communities involved and the catchment area committee. It will then implement the most important measures for climate-sensitive and sustainable management and for the protection of water resources.

The project is supporting the National Forestry Institute in introducing agroforestry systems and the Institute for Territorial Studies in expanding water body monitoring and setting up a digital platform for the purpose of bundling and processing all data of relevance to water management. This improves the availability of the data for regional and national planning while increasing the informative value and quality of the national water management plan.

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


The duration of the supply of drinking water for the population has tripled in the supported towns from four to 12 hours per day in 2015 at the end of 2019.

Water losses in the supported regions were reduced from 55 per cent to 29 per cent in the same period. As a result, the state water utility ENACAL has been able to increase the coverage of operating costs in the supported delegations from 28 per cent to 90 per cent.

Fifteen wastewater treatment plants meet six of eight parameters defined by the national standard for the discharge values of wastewater from wastewater treatment plants. This was the case for only two plants in 2015.
A five-year management plan has been defined in two water catchment areas.

In three catchment areas, the relevant authorities and community administrations have implemented 57 measures to improve water resources management and adapt systems to climate change.

In order to accompany the implementation of these measures, two catchment area committees have been founded, the managers of which are 30 per cent women. Binding guidelines have also been developed for the respective processes and approved by the National Water Authority ANA.

Additional information