This region, though small, suffers a disproportionate number of extreme climate events such as hurricanes, floods and droughts. These have a considerable impact on water infrastructure and economic development.
According to the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this situation is bound to worsen. Central America is home to 40 million people of whom 70% live on the Pacific coast where only 30% of the water resources are available.
Need for clear national policies
The main problem in the region is weak water governance. Weak institutional, technical and financial capacities of the entities in charge of water management are at the core of this deficiency. Water administration has been transferred to local governments or community based organizations, but there is a need to strengthen coordination and participation mechanisms, as well as financial mechanisms that can assure the implementation of sustainable practices for water use. The need for clear national policies and sound legal frameworks is long overdue. Progress has been made in the approval of water legislation in some of the countries, and in these cases, the focus is on the implementation of the legal frameworks.
Central America is also affected by unsustainable use of forests and soils, and pollution from industries and agriculture that degrades water quality and reduces water availability. This is aggravated by the lack of multipurpose infrastructures for the storage and regulation for water. Drinking water and sanitation coverage is uneven, and rural populations are the most disadvantaged (93% of urban and 60% of rural populations have access to drinking water, 78% of urban and 58% of rural populations have access to basic sanitation). Efforts must be made in improving the quality of the services.
Shared River Basins
Water is a potential unifying issue since 23 of the 120 main river basins are shared between countries. The region has made significant progress in defining a regional political framework, through a harmonization process carried out during 2009 resulting in the elaboration of important instruments such as the Central American IWRM Strategy and Plan.
Improve water security
GWP Central America’s main endeavor is to improve water security by promoting harmonization and implementation of regional and national policy instruments. The application of these instruments requires sound legal frameworks to foster good water governance at national level and efforts will continue to support legislators and other actors in this arena. GWP Central America has established strong alliances with the Central American Integration System (SICA) and other regional actors, as well as with national entities in charge of water management.
IWRM national planning is essential
GWP Central America has played an important role, in the launching of IWRM plans in Costa Rica (2009) and Panama (2011), and is an opportunity to boost the development of such planning tools in the rest of countries of the region. IWRM national planning is essential to bring together all water-related sectors. The plans will be reinforced by training on water financing to ensure sustainable funding.
The importance of communications
Increase awareness and motivation of the population is of paramount importance to catalyze social processes promoted by GWP, which is why GWP Central America will continue to work with journalists and other relevant actors who contribute to the public´s understanding of water issues.