Situation Analysis Tool: Assessing the implementation status of the human right to water and sanitation: Nicaragua


This tool presents a summary of the implementation status of the human right to water and sanitation in Nicaragua, to be used as a reference for similar assessments in other countries. It reflects the conclusions of the first report on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in Nicaragua (2011), published by the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Water.


  1. 27% of the interviewed households use public water points or springs, streams or rivers, so a reliable source of water is not guaranteed. Another 4% of families present an extremely vulnerable situation since they have to buy the water, turn to neighbours for it or, when possible, collect rainwater.
  2. Only 56% of households have a piped system in the house or in the yard. However, if the other elements that define availability, such as the frequency and continuity of the supply are taken into account, only 67% of these households receive water every day, 16.5% every other day and 8% every two or three days. This is important because the availability of water as defined by international standards would not be guaranteed for that 24.5% of households.By this we mean that although 56% of households have a piped system, if we cross this data with the indicators of frequency and continuity, we would be talking about only 37.52 % of households with piped water on a daily basis.Furthermore, it cannot be stated that when water is received daily, or every two or three days, it is received continuously. The data shows that 49 % of households can only take advantage of the supply for 3 or 6 hours. This has important implications, since those hours are often not the hours of daily activity and in many cases take place overnight.Therefore, from the survey data we can say that from the 1350 interviewed households only 289 (21.4%) have a daily water service through a piped system but only 52 % of these (ie, 150 families, representing 1% of the sample) have a continuity of supply guaranteed for more than 12 hours.
  3. Access to piped water reflects high levels of inequality, depending on the geographical distribution, being the access to these water sources higher in the Pacific, lower in the North Central area and much lower in the Atlantic.
  4. 33% of households consume less than 1 barrel of water daily and 40% use between 1 and 2 barrels. This means that 73% of households have less than 2 barrels. The World Health Organisation suggests a daily minimum of 20 litres per person.
  5. The analysed variables related to availability (frequency, continuity, quantity, proximity ….) ratify major social inequalities in access to water, both geographically and within communities.


  1. The highest water quality assessments are concentrated in households with piped water inside the house or with private wells.
  2. The worst quality is registered in households whose sources are public water points, water wells or rivers.
  3. Seven out of 10 households assess water quality based on its physical appearance and its smell and taste. Only 22 % have received some information from local authorities regarding water quality.
  4. Among the causes of pollution prevails the perception that both human and animal faeces are the element of highest pollution. Agrochemicals are also mentioned.
  5. Some homes also point out the presence of arsenic (in the municipalities of Jinotega , Muy Muy and San Dionisio)
  6. Main quality control measures include the weekly or monthly chlorination and the cleaning of piles and storage tanks. The Ministry of Health is the main institution responsible for conducting such controls; in several communities in the municipalities from the North and Siuna, responsibility falls on the Drinking water and Sanitation Committees (CAPS).
  7. Several communities do not apply any water control measures.
  8. When complaints about poor water quality are made, Town Halls present the higher percentage of non-replied claims. Amongst the municipalities that show a higher level of unattended claims are Siuna, Condega and Niquinomo.
  9. Less than half of the surveyed households received some training on water treatment and improvement of sanitary conditions. The rest (685 cases) have not received any information on the subject.
  10. The presence of CAPS in training and awareness-raising processes in this area is weak and barely visible and NGOs appear as the main actors.
  11. 37% of families do not apply any treatment or take measures to tackle the problem of water pollution.
  12. The quality of domestic water and sanitation systems is one of the main factors contributing to the propagation of infectious diseases. However, many households are not aware of the direct relationship between water quality and household and community health.
  13. Those who admit the presence of diseases caused by water quality mention essentially intestinal infections (diarrhoea). The most affected household members are children. 21% of the interviewed households have had children with diarrhoea problems.
  14. Children, together with the elderly, are the most affected by parasitic diseases.


  1. 40% of all families with piped system at home or in the patio, is forced to fetch water from other places due to the discontinuity of service.
  2. 20% of the cases report on unsafe road conditions due to solitude and poor state. Most households emphasise the difficulties that fetching water entails in order to do domestic tasks, especially for people who are responsible for this, mainly women and children.


  1. Highest costs of water acquisition are recorded in those places where the Nicaraguan Water and Sewerage public utility (ENACAL) is not present and there are no CAPS. This means that households MUST buy the water.
  2. The communities served by ENACAL pay very different rates (from 25 to 200 cordobas). The lowest rates are the ones served by the CAPS.
  3. A third of the households consider the monthly fee high.
  4. 53% say they have had or currently have some kind of difficulty paying the monthly water fees. This is important because such payment may jeopardise the amount of money families spend on food, health or education.

Non-discrimination/Attention to vulnerable groups

  1. From the previous results it can be seen that in each of the categories the most vulnerable people from each community are the ones being most affected.
  2. This is something that also the interviewees express when asked about the most affected people by water issues.
  3. Most cases refer to children as the ones who suffer the most from the lack of water, especially in relation to health risks, lack of personal hygiene or school dropout (some of them because they have to fetch water, others because they are not able to clean themselves to go to school).
  4. Also, a large percentage of households point to women as the most affected because they are the ones responsible for the domestic tasks and are also in charge of fetching water.
  5. Water fetching, as pointed out, affects mainly women and children, and it is a great investment of time and delay in domestic and school tasks. It also exposes them to situations of vulnerability since the roads are not safe.
  6. Water scarcity also affects specific community groups unevenly, either because they live in areas where there is no supply, either because they are the most vulnerable families (environmental conditions are linked, like socio-political and economic).
  7. The conditions of isolation in which the most vulnerable families live involves scattered houses, lack of wells , large distance to water stations, and this describes the poverty of many families, a situation exacerbated by ecological degradation (pollution, decreased water flow), and damaged and inadequate infrastructure (polluted wells, public water points in bad condition…)

Sanitation Systems and Waste Disposal

  1. 88% of the surveyed households state they have latrine. 4% report having a toilet, but some claim that it discharges directly into the river.
  2. Households without toilet facilities are concentrated in the North and in the municipalities of the Autonomous Regions.
  3. 37% of households have been the target of some type of action or latrine improvement project.
  4. However, the households point out that given the limited coverage of public policies and the projects of non-governmental organisations, most families are the ones carrying out the tasks of improvement or reconstruction of latrines. The second player in this regard would be local government, followed by FISE.
  5. 5% of households with latrine share it with other families.
  6. Interviews with CAPS indicate a practically complete absence of sewage treatment measures.
  7. Households essentially eliminate waste by burning it and throwing it to vacant lots. Also, 16% of households bury garbage.

Information and Participation

  1. A significant number of households do not know who administrates water or who is in charge of its management and maintenance. Together with those who do not answer, the total amounts to 147 cases.
  2. Barely 2, 6 % of respondents have directly participated in some form of action to exercise and claim their right to water.
  3. Most of the recognised activities are the meetings held in the community. The presence of CAPS and cooperatives represent a very important role as 75% of the people are aware of these meetings through direct invitation.
  4. The participation rate is higher in communities organised by CAPS and cooperatives.
  5. 3 out of 10 households considered women be the most actively involved in activities related to water organisation and management (especially in training, demonstrations, project development and management with local governments).
  6. However, the role that women play in the community is not reflected on the role women play within the CAPS (in most cases, functions of secretary, health and treasury). There are only 7 women in positions of vice presidency.
  7. Activities with more community participation include reforestation, cleaning around the water sources and the maintenance of systems.
  8. There are many CAPS who recognise the absence of policies and systematic actions oriented towards sustainability.
  9. More than half of the population thinks that the activities carried out are not sufficient to ensure the sustainability of water sources.
  10. 34% of households declare that they are never consulted on matters relating to supply, water quality, payments …
  11. 3 out of 5 households are unaware of the Water Act and in 77% of the municipalities surveyed the percentage of those who do not know reached almost 80%.
  12. The perception of the respondents on the needs of community empowerment refers primarily to increased participation in the search of solutions, greater communication between leaders and getting the authorities to listen (the latter linked to the leadership factor).
  13. Most CAPS believe that the main challenge is to improve the organisation to ensure the involvement of the people in the defence of the right to water and to strengthen the management capacity and dialogue with national and local actors.
  14. Another aspect mentioned refers to the need to raise awareness on sustainability (preservation of sources and maintenance of systems).

Organization and Management

  1. The CAPS predominate in the management and maintenance of the drinking water service. 57% of surveyed households recognise a communally organised water management.
  2. Around 2 out of 10 households recognise that the tasks of the CAPS go beyond the maintenance and management of drinking water, emphasising its role in community organisation and community leadership.
  3. However, the role of CAPS out of the community (at a municipal and national stage) is not very visible. This means that somehow its political role goes largely unnoticed.