Water in Latin America and the Caribbean: better governance can improve access


21/11/2012 - In Latin American and Caribbean countries the population is growing faster than the world average, intensifying land use and increasing urbanisation. The region is also prone to the negative impact of climate change and natural disasters, putting further pressure on natural resources. Although the region is expected to meet the Millennium Development Goals on drinking water supply, some 69 million people will not have access to improved sanitation by 2015.

Securing and managing water for all is not only a question of financing and infrastructure but also a matter of good governance. Coordinated approaches to effective water policy must be context-specific, adapted to local needs and resources, and beneficial to the poor.

A new OECD study, Water Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Multi-level Approach, reviews water governance arrangements in 13 LAC countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru. The report will help decision makers in the water sector diagnose governance obstacles to effective water reforms. Though country situations vary, common challenges include:

  • An accountability gap: a lack of public concern and little involvement by water users (a main obstacle for more than 90% of the LAC countries surveyed);

  • A capacity gap: a lack of staff and technical expertise at central and, most importantly, at sub-national level (a concern for two-thirds of these countries).

The report also highlights good practices for addressing co-ordination and capacity challenges. For example, Mexico has been a pioneer in establishing river basin organisations. For water and sanitation services, Peru is now using indicators to enhance the performance of service utilities.

The report also recommends ways to improve policy outcomes and reduce poverty:

  • Increase policy coherence across water-dependent interests such as agriculture, energy and territorial development;
  • Strengthen capacities at sub-national level, for example by monitoring performance;
  • Engage all stakeholders more effectively;
  • Improve information sharing.

Stemming from this work and the previous publication on water governance in OECD countries, National Policy Dialogues have been launched with OECD and non OECD member countries (Mexico in 2011, the Netherlands in 2012, and Brazil in 2013).

The report was launched during the Annual Conference of Ibero-American Water Directors (CODIA, Foz do Iguaçu – Brazil) on 21 November 2012.

For further information, journalists can contact Aziza Akhmouch; (Tel.: + 33 617 79 14 49).

To obtain a copy of  “Water Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Multi-level Approach”, journalists can e-mail:

Further information about OECD work on water governance is available at:


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