Improving the Rural Water and Sanitation Information Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean Region

April 4, 2017


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Photo: SIASAR

Understanding the factors that drive sustainability and systematically collecting data and making it available to water and sanitation sector institutions at the national and local levels is helping Latin American countries undertake concrete actions to address existing sustainability gaps in these essential services.

Challenge 

Improving access and sustainability of water supply and sanitation (WSS) services to the bottom 40 percent of the population in developing countries is essential to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. WSS services lie at the root of many other development challenges, as they affect public health, education, income generating opportunities, and the environment. Today in  Latin America and the Caribbean region, 21 million of the 33 million people without access to a source of improved drinking water live in rural areas. While several studies show that rural communities have limited capacity to operate and maintain the systems they receive, often resulting in the systems’ collapse, investments continue to focus on building infrastructure and to underestimate the need for continuous support and necessary reconstruction over time.

Approach

The World Bank program Consolidation, Expansion, and Improvement of the Rural Water and Sanitation Information System (SIASAR) supports countries in generating evidence regarding WSS access and sustainability and in developing a supportive institutional and operational environment that will enable sustainable provision of WSS services in rural areas. SIASAR has targeted over 22,000 rural communities across eight countries for strengthened WSS provision.

The objective of this initiative is to devise more informed policies and to improve sustainability and quality of service in Latin America’s rural water and sanitation sector. These goals are to be achieved by consolidating, improving, strengthening, and expanding the Rural Water and Sanitation Information System.   

To this end, a Bank grant for SIASAR was designed and enacted (i) to assist countries in devising technical, conceptual, and implementation recommendations to make SIASAR more effective, based on a list of recommendations currently being agreed upon and prioritized among the participating countries; (ii) to provide the participating institutions (including regional institutions) with the capacity building needed to identify future funding opportunities and to initiate these recommendations at a later time; and (iii) to open the system to more countries, thus enhancing its credibility, viability, and usability. 


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Use of new technologies to collect information. Photo: SIASAR

Results

Since it was rolled out, the SIASAR system has achieved significant progress toward fulfilling its goals:

  • The SIASAR system has been set up and launched in eight countries: Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Peru, and the Brazilian state of Ceará.
  • Across those eight participants, 22,752 rural communities, representing a rural population of 11 million, have data entered in the system.
  • Over 200 institutions at the national, state, and municipal levels have started to use SIASAR information in their policy and planning processes. Examples include the Dominican Republic, where 37 systems were repaired that had been offline; Honduras, where RWSS (rural water supply and sanitation) profiles were prepared in 28 municipalities; Nicaragua, where 61 RWSS municipal plans were developed using SIASAR data to prioritize the most vulnerable communities; or Panama, where data from indigenous communities are informing the preparation of the National Indigenous Peoples Development Plan.
  • The participants have leveraged the data gathered through the SIASAR to improve project design and mobilization of funds for implementing WSS operations financed by the World Bank, the Spanish Commercial and Spanish Cooperation (AECID), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and KfW Development Bank in Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, and the Brazilian state of Ceará.
  • The SIASAR initiative has been disseminated at key WSS professional gatherings throughout Latin America as well as at global events. 

" The system is now working again and the people in the community are happy. They have stopped complaining and have started paying for the water service regularly. "

Dona Josefa

President of the Community Association of the Rural Aqueduct in Guanito, Dominican Republic.

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Photo: SIASAR

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank expects to continue to support participants in their efforts (i) to consolidate and expand the use of SIASAR as a decision-making tool; (ii) to build IT capacity and support the development of the SIASAR 2.0; (iv) to generate knowledge and disseminate lessons learned; and (v) to align SIASAR with the Sustainable Development Goals. This technical assistance will be provided through funds from the complementary TA operation, Supporting the SIASAR in LAC Countries, run by the Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program, and through other lending operations that have included SIASAR. Additionally, the Bank team will proactively engage with participants and strategic partners to consolidate and expand the use of SIASAR.

Partners

The grant promoted engagement between participating governments and the AECID offices. Commercial attachés and AECID representatives have participated in primary events in participating countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Peru) and in interested countries (Bolivia, Paraguay, and Colombia). AECID and IDB officials managing RWSS projects funded by the Spanish government’s Water and Sanitation Cooperation Fund have been deeply involved in most activities. The Spanish commercial attaché in Tegucigalpa joined the National Committee of SIASAR in Honduras, for example. The Spanish Economic and Commercial Office in Washington, DC, has been regularly informed about the implementation progress, upcoming events, and planned activities. The grant financing from the Spanish Fund for Latin America (SFLAC) played a key role leveraging financial and technical support from strategic partners such as AECID, IDB, the European Union, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

In addition, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, UPC) has been instrumental in strengthening technical elements of the SIASAR model. UPC staff have participated in technical missions, providing the university with exposure to senior government officials, and the ongoing research agenda led by the UPC is expected to generate publications in the coming months. Finally, the UPC has placed student interns in Central America to support the implementation of the SIASAR initiative on the ground, offering a unique window for students to gain real-world experience.

Beneficiaries

Since it was rolled out, the SIASAR has helped participating governments to put more than 22,000 rural communities, representing a rural population of 11 million, on the WSS agenda. The participants have made significant progress in institutionalizing the WSS information system and in collecting and using the data for planning and decision-making processes. 

Dona Josefa, president of the Community Association of the Rural Aqueduct in Guanito, Dominican Republic, is grateful to the SIASAR for making her community visible to WSS agencies. When the SIASAR first reached them, the water supply system had been offline for almost ten years because of a problem with the generator essential for its operation. Thanks to the data gathered through SIASAR, the National Institute of Potable Water and Sewerage learned of the problem and took action to solve it. “The system is now working again and the people in the community are happy. They have stopped complaining and have started paying for the water service regularly,” says Dona Josefa.

Similar events are occurring across throughout all of the states participating. Many policy and planning initiatives have been inaugurated based on SIASAR data. 

Dona Josefa, president of the Community Association of the Rural Aqueduct in Guanito, Dominican Republic, is grateful to the SIASAR for making her community visible to WSS agencies. When the SIASAR first reached them, the water supply system had been offline for almost ten years because of a problem with the generator essential for its operation. Thanks to the data gathered through SIASAR, the National Institute of Potable Water and Sewerage learned of the problem and took action to solve it. “The system is now working again and the people in the community are happy. They have stopped complaining and have started paying for the water service regularly,” says Dona Josefa.

 

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Water and Sanitation
Today in Latin America and the Caribbean region, 21 million of the 33 million people without access to a source of improved drinking water live in rural areas.