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Bridging gaps in water and sanitation data for Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Inter-American Development Bank
  • Cooperación Española
  • Sanitation and water for all
  • Swiss Confederation

OLAS: Improving water and sanitation data for the region

Inequality presents unique challenges

The water and sanitation related challenges facing Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) differ from those of other regions due to LACs distinctive socioeconomic makeup. Extreme inequality exists throughout the region, both between urban and rural populations and within cities themselves. This inequality is reflected in water availability, sanitation and resources data throughout LAC.

Data gaps and incomparability hamper understanding

Large data gaps and in water and sanitation data in the region and variations in data collection methods make it difficult to compare them. This creates a challenge when trying to understand the real situation at the regional level with respect to water access, sanitation, and water resources.

OLAS serves three purposes:

Promote data availability

Finding data can be challenging. One of the main purposes of OLAS is to promote the availability of water and sanitation data by functioning as an information and data hub. Visitors can explore the water and sanitation data available for LAC, search and download databases from the repository and learn about the latest research through our Research Network. We also work hand-in-hand with member countries to identify and close data gaps.

Standardize measurement methods and clarifying terminology

Different definitions and methodologies used throughout the region mean that data between countries are not comparable. This represents a major challenge in terms of access to water, sanitation and water resources in the region and makes it difficult to measure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). OLAS aims to provide guidance on metric definitions, methodologies and best practices to help member countries generate consistent and comparable data.

Show spatial inequalities in the region

The distribution of water resources in the region has a major impact on the measurement of access to water, sanitation and water resources. We analyze water-related data through: the lens of income inequality, differences between rural and urban populations, and other demographic aspects in order to identify gaps in access to services and infrastructure.

OLAS Functionalities

The Water and Sanitation Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean (OLAS) is a digital platform that provides reliable, comparable, timely and consistent information related to the water and sanitation sectors in the region. It aims to make this information available to the different sectoral actors, policy makers, and researchers for the development of effective policy-making, sector development, and collaboration between actors. To read more about the origins and purpose of OLAS, please visit our About page.

On the OLAS site, users can:

Explore through:

  • Understanding the regional water context via our LAC Region page
  • Knowledge of the country context via our Country pages
  • Analysis of the metrics published via our Indicators page
  • Knowledge and analysis of metrics related to water access, sanitation, and water resources across the region on our data Visualizations page.
  • Download water related datasets, studies, and documents in our Data Search and Resources Search pages,

Get involved through:


View OLAS indicators by country, and learn more about the country’s socio-demographics, water access, sanitation access and water resources metrics, as well as specific challenges and advances these countries have concerning their water and sanitation data collection.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) guide the world’s development priorities, but measuring progress consistently across countries is complicated. Understanding how we calculate the indicators used to measure these goals and the data behind the calculations will help you know what they represent and, more importantly, what they do not. Visit our indicator page for a deep dive into the OLAS indicators for water access and sanitaiton and information on our efforts to standardize the data behind them.


Research & Development Network (RID)

The OLAS Research and Development Network is a mechanism for collaboration between researchers from universities, R&D centers, NGOs and think tanks to strengthen applied research, promote scientific dissemination and support the formulation of science-based public policies concerning the advancement of sustainable development goals in water and sanitation throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.



The Latin American Sanitation Conference (Latinosan) is an international and regional conference, where political actors, companies, and civil society meet every three years. The objective of the event is the promotion of access to sustainable and quality sanitation services in urban and rural areas of LAC countries. OLAS derives from commitments made by the countries of the region within the framework of LATINOSAN.