Access to basic services for the urban poor living in extreme poverty in Nicaragua has been limited. Only 26.5 percent had access to piped water and 1.2 percent to in-house toilets. Most of this population used latrines (72.5 percent), but 26.3 percent did not have access to any sanitation services. Raw sewage running down the streets of informal housing developments was not uncommon. Those with access to piped water, received service sporadically—sometimes for no more than two hours a day. ENACAL, as the agency responsible for the provision of water supply and sanitation services to most urban areas and the primary provider in the greater Managua region, was struggling to extend reliable service to the expanding urban population, given the lack of financing and an effective approach to carryout works in marginalized communities. ENACAL’s coverage challenges were amplified by operational inefficiencies and a low capacity to collect tariffs from clients.
The Greater Managua Water and Sanitation Project (PRASMA) addressed these challenges with combined infrastructure investments, which provided the platform for quality service and efficiency and institutional strengthening activities. The project promoted practical community engagement and capacity building for WSS (water and sanitation services) aspects throughout the project cycle to engage the marginalized, low-income beneficiaries. The project also piloted low-cost sewerage networks, which had not been previously used in Nicaragua. Given their lower cost, these networks permitted ENACAL to extend coverage more broadly. The project also supported the development and implementation of ENACAL’s operational and commercial efficiency strategies, which included water optimization activities (such as non-revenue water1) as well as a tariff collection strategy that transformed the way ENACAL approached clients with delinquent payments. All of these approaches were innovative for ENACAL at the time of implementation.
The project’s infrastructure and efficiency activities extended reliable water service to 161,896 residents of the greater Managua region. In addition, the increase in reliability reflected the project’s investments in non-revenue water activities, such as the promotion of micro and macro metering and the establishment of four macro-sectors, which covered 145 neighborhoods. The sanitation projects improved sanitation services, introduced the condominial sewerage method in country norms, and rehabilitated the Ciudad Sandino Treatment Plant. Finally, the project’s tariff collection strategy increased ENACAL’s total collections by 42 percent.