Background Gradient


The Plurinational State of Bolivia is a landlocked nation in central South America. Due to differences in geography, climate and rainfall distribution, Bolivia can be divided into three clearly differentiated zones: the altiplano, the sub-Andean zone of valleys and Yungas, and the plains and Amazon zone. These zones have an unequal distribution of water resources, which, when coupled with population growth, accelerated urbanization, increased industrial water demand, and changing climatic patterns, has resulted in a number of challenges with respect to water access and sanitation.

A rich source of information for measuring the current state of access to water and sanitation are household surveys. Throughout Latin America and the Carribean, household surveys provide us with representative data of the entire population, validated by statistical institutes, that allow cross-checking with other social statistics such as area, income, and gender breakdowns. This page relies heavily on Bolivia's 2020 Household Survey, which surveyed 11,056 representative households to collect information on living standards. Bolivia collects data on water in their household surveys in accordance with the WHO / UNICEF guidelines, making it easier for researchers to understand the status of water and sanitation access within the country without ambiguity. This household survey is the only household survey in the region that includes information on hygiene practices.

For more information on why OLAS uses household surveys, click here.

Data sources:

Progress Towards Measuring SDG 6


Most Bolivians live in urban settings and enjoy better access to water and sanitation services than Bolivians living in rural areas. Approximately 36 percent of Bolivians live in rural areas.

Inequality in Bolivia is evident when visualizing imcome quintiles from the country’s 2020 household survey. Each quintile represents 20% of Bolivian households, with the first quntile representing those with the lowest income per capita while the 5th represents the 20% of the populatoin with the highest income. The income per capita of the highest quintile in Bolivia is 14 times that of the lowest quintile.

Average monthly household income by quintile ( in local currency 2020)


Urbanization rate



Water access

Water access

Most Bolivians live in urban settings that enjoy higher rates of access to improved water sources while Bolivians living in rural communities face more challenges. This is especially true concerning access to piped water in the home. According to Bolivia’s 2020 household survey only 11% of rural households have piped water (into home or on plot). Unsurprisingly, higher incomes correspond with higher access to improved water sources.

Split data by:

Water Access Data by Quintile and Access Area

The above sankey diagram shows water access data broken down by location of water access (urban/rural), income quintile and type of water access. When hovering over the diagram, the number displayed shows the ratio of respondents that fit into the category on the right that come from the category on the left.

Sanitation Access

Sanitation Access

Sanitation access is a challenge in Bolivia - as of 2020, 10% of households did not have access to sanitation facilities. Sanitation access varies significantly by income quintile and urbanization rate, with approximately 31% of rural households and 28% of lowest income quintile households have no access to sanitation services.

Split data by:

Sanitation Data by Quintile and Access Area

The above sankey diagram shows sanitation access data broken down by community, income quintile and type of facility. When hovering over the diagram, the number displayed shows the ratio of respondents that fit into the category on the right that come from the category on the left.

Water Resources

Water Resources

Water Availability

Bolivia is a country rich in water, however, the distribution and accessibility of this resource is not homogeneous and reflects the geographical differences of the country. The actual total renewable water resources in Bolivia are 574,0 km3/year and the hydrological system is divided into three major basins: the Amazon basin which covers 66% of the country’s surface, the Rio de La Plata basin which covers 20% and the Cerrada or Altiplano basin with a coverage of 14% of the nation’s surface. Information on groundwater resources is lacking as there is no inventory of aquifers at the national level, nor storage and recharge volumes at the integrated level.

Water Stress

Bolivia has a medium-low water stress level due to the abundant water resources provided by the Amazon River basin. However, water resources are not evenly distributed throughout the country. The city of Cochabamba, for example, experiences a medium-high level of water stress. In recent years there have been significant water shortages, specifically in the western altiplano, where shrinking glaciers and drought have significantly reduced water supply.

Wastewater Treatment

Out of 219 Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP) inventoried in Bolivia, 113 do not function properly, so only 30,5% of the wastewater from the entire Bolivian population is treated adequately. Additionally, only 5% of the wastewater treatment systems function properly, while 95% present difficulties in operation and maintenance . The goal of the MMAyA and the government is to achieve 65% of wastewater treatment throughout the country by 2030.

Water and Sanitation Management

Water and Sanitation Management

Institutional Framework

The Ministry of Environment and Water (MMAyA), is charged with managing the provision of water services through private companies for communities with populations over 10,000, while the Authority of Social Control and Inspection of Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation (AAPS) are responsible for regulating the sector. Investments are primarily funded from the central, municipal and departmental governments and, in the case of the Drinking Water Service Providers (EPSA), with funds from operating margins.

Regulatory Framework

Universal access to drinking water and sanitation services are recognized in Article 20 of the Political Constitution of 2009, as well as the role of the State to manage, regulate, protect, and plan the adequate and sustainable use of water resources. The regulatory and institutional framework was established by Law No. 2029 of 1999, revised and amended by the Law on the Provision and Use of Drinking Water and Sanitary Sewerage Services (Law No. 2066 of 2000). This law establishes the competencies of the sector’s entities, creates the Superintendency of Basic Sanitation, and outlines the procedure for granting concessions for the provision of services and the rights to set prices, tariffs, rates and fees.

Among other related regulations are:

  • Framework Law on Autonomies and Decentralization (Law No. 031 of 2010).
  • Policy for the implementation of the human right to water and sanitation (Ministerial Resolution No. 569 of 2017).

Development Programs and Plans

Bolivia has a Sectoral Plan for Integral Development for Living Well of the Ministry of Environment and Water (PSDI-MAyA), which outlines the actions for the sector’s stakeholders towards the vision set forth by the Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020 (PDES). The PDES aims for universal access to sanitation facilities and integrated management of liquid and solid waste in human settlements. Currently, the government is preparing the Sector and Territorial Plans, which will outline the stratey for the next planning cyclePDES 2021-2025.