El Salvador is Central America’s most densely populated nation and water is crucial to more than 6 million people who call El Salvador home. However, diminishing supplies and high water pollution levels have plunged El Salvador’s into a deep crisis over water access.
El Salvador’s Water Crisis
More than 1.6 million El Salvadorians have no access to clean water at home, with 90% of surface water unsafe for drinking, some are forced to make trips to communal water sources up to 20 times a day. El Salvador’s extraordinarily high water pollution levels can be attributed to sources such as industrial and agricultural runoff, where poor state infrastructure means that water is often left untreated. Without clean water, diseases such as dysentery can impact education and household income, as children and adults are too ill to attend school or work. According to U.N. estimates, at least 27% of Salvadorans live in poverty. Many lack the means to afford proper treatment, meaning that diseases can be fatal up to 50% of the time.
While the severity of El Salvador’s water crisis cannot be denied, various solutions offer hope for those most affected. Strengthening the capacity of El Salvador’s water infrastructure is being implemented in several key ways. After decades of inaction, the Salvadoran government passed the Water Resources Law in 2022, which established a local water regulation authority and requires government approval for industrial or agricultural water usage. Regulating the usage of El Salvador’s water should aid the government in ensuring wastewater is treated and reducing overall pollution. The World Bank has dedicated $100 million to improving water quality in El Salvador with a project that aims to benefit the health and well-being of the most vulnerable groups. A further $100 million was pledged by the Inter-American Development Bank to improve water access for around 120,000 households. El Salvador has also recently banned mining for metal, a leading cause of water pollution in the country.
El Salvador’s water crisis is also being addressed by water purification initiatives, which allow vulnerable residents to access clean water while waiting for infrastructure to be strengthened. More than 2,500 rural families now benefit from solar-powered wells. In areas with insufficient electrical grid capacity, solar power drives clean water from wells into storage tanks. Where clean water is unavailable, sand filtration technology can be used to remove impurities and toxins in water, giving communities access to clean water while removing the need to travel. El Salvador’s water crisis severely threatens its most vulnerable citizens. Pollution and poor infrastructure have left millions without safe water sources. However, capacity building, investment and water purification technology provide a crucial lifeline to El Salvador’s most impoverished citizens.
– Jamie Paterson