El Salvador: Analysis of water decentralization (#131)

El Cerrito Canton community has spent decade attempting to get access to clean water. Action was taken to organise a Community Development Association, leading to the execution of a potable water project. The key insight drawn from this case is that, it is key for communities to have water access and management is their capacity to get organised.

El Cerrito Canton community is made up by more than 400 families. For more than 40 years, this community tried to obtain access to potable water through several governmental and nongovernmental organizations.  In this long and difficult process, the community got organized in a Community Development Association (ADESCO) and succeeded with the execution of other farming and credit projects; and in the year 2000, they finally succeeded in the execution of a potable water project through CARE-Project AGUA.

The persistence of this community, how they used the social capital to improve their living standards, and how they currently manage their potable water system deserves high praise.

It is worth mentioning that within the user charges they are paying for the “water environmental service” in addition to paying for the operation and maintenance costs of the system. Part of that payment is intended for water resource conservation and catchment.

Finally, this case is a sustainable community management model within the context of the national discussion on decentralization and private sector participation in potable water service supply and sanitation that is currently taking place in the country.

Lessons learned

The key for poor communities to have water access and management is their capacity to get organized, their tenacity, clarity of objectives, attitude and the community leaders’ willingness to be of service, human capital building, and better use of the social capital.

The rural potable water systems can be managed by community organizations in a sustainable way but it is necessary to link these efforts at national level in order that such local managing entities are recognized and obtain legal status based on equity to have access to and use the water efficiently.

Importance of the case for IWRM

The model described in this paper illustrates how the economic, social and environmental management of water for human consumption can be addressed. It has changed people’s attitudes and has made them aware of the fact that the water is a valuable environmental service that must be taken care of for the future generations.

Photo credit: Jorge Lazo