Background Gradient


Chile is a tri-continental country located on the South American Pacific coast, which covers a wide latitudinal range (from 17° to 56° South). Its length gives rise to a large number of biomes which creates multiple climates and an unequal distribution of water resource throughout the country, resulting in a number of water management challenges.

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 countries' population, validated by statistical institutes, which allow cross-checking with other social statistics such as area, income, and gender breakdowns. This page relies heavily on data from Chile's 2020 National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey, which was applied to 62,911 representative households at the regional level and collects data on water and sanitation access. Some of this data is collected in accordance with WHO / UNICEF guidelines; however, the survey does not ask households to specify whether access to sanitation facilities are exclusive to the household, making it an imperfect sanitation metric to measure progress on SDG 6.2.

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

Data sources:

Progress Towards Measuring SDG 6


Access to water and sanitation in Chile varies significantly between urban and rural areas, with urban households enjoying much higher access rates. Approximately 11.7% of Chileans live in rural areas.

Inequality in Chile is evident when viewing the income quintiles of the 2020 National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey. Chileans in the highest quintile have an average income 15.5 times higher than that of the lowest quintile.

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


Urbanization rate



Water access

Water access

Most Chileans live in urban settings with high rates of access to improved water sources, while Chileans living in rural communities face more challenges. The urban/rural gap is the strongest indicator of having piped water to the home, with 99% of urban households having piped water (to the home or plot). In contrast, only about 57% of rural households have running water (to the home or to the property). However, there is not that much difference between the access of the various income quintiles (~ 91% for the lowest quintile, 97% for the highest quintile).

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

Chile’s National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey does not collect data that specify whether sanitation facilities are exclusive to a particular household. Exclusivity is a requirement within the JMP scale framework to characterize whether sanitation services are basic or safely managed.

Chilean households tend to have high access to improved sanitation services, with 97% having access to sanitation facilities connected to sewer systems or septic tanks. Even among Chileans with the lowest access (the first income quintile of rural populations) more than 70% have access to toilets with one of these drainage option, with households in rural areas rely heavily on septic tanks and latrines. 2% of households stated that they did not have access to sanitation facilities.

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

Chile is considered a privileged country in terms of water resources, with 101 hydrographic basins containing 1,251 rivers and 12,784 bodies of water, including lakes and lagoons. In addition, there are 24,114 glaciers, which can contribute to the runoff flow during dry periods. Renewable water resources per capita are 51,218 m3/person/year. However, due to the water heterogeneity of the country, the average is below 500 m3/person/year from the Metropolitan Region to the north, above 7,000 m3/person/year in the regions of O’Higgins to the south and 2,950.168 m3/person/year in the Aysén Region. Since water sources in Chile have been scarce since 1999, work has been done on desalinating seawater, reaching an estimated volume of 0.065 km3/year.

Water Stress

At the national level, Chile is classified as a country with high . In recent years, precipitation has decreased and air dryness has increased (due to higher temperatures), a situation that is accentuated towards the central-southern Chile. In addition, there has been a trend towards a decrease in the country’s groundwater and glaciers, which may affect the sustainability of the agricultural and forestry sectors that depend on rainfall, as well as hydroelectricity due to the limited supply of surface and groundwater, mainly in the Maule and Biobío regions.

Wastewater Treatment

In 2017, Chile reported 100% treatment of wastewater collected in urban areas in the OECD statistics module. However, in rural sectors this percentage is approximately 53%. There are different treatment technologies used in the country, in the north of the country it is common to find plants that use lagoons as secondary treatment systems, while in the extreme south 100% of the plants use sludge technology.

Water and Sanitation Management

Water and Sanitation Management

Institutional Framework

In Chile there are 43 institutional actors that perform 102 functions considered necessary for water management in the country. They are distributed among: government agencies, water user organizations and autonomous agencies. All functions are centralized in the country except drinking water supply and wastewater treatment, which operates under a concession regime to the private sector, whereby different public utilities are responsible for providing water services and, therefore, for the maintenance, renovation and construction of the distribution network.

Regulatory Framework

In Chile, the main legal body in force for water management is the 1981 Water Code (with modifications in 2005, Law 20.017), which establishes that water is a national asset for public use and grants private parties the right to use it. With the modification of the Water Law, those who manage new water rights are requested to justify the amount of water requested in relation to the intended use of this, a charge is established for non-use of water rights; it recognizes the relationship between surface water and groundwater and establishes the possibility of stopping works that are executed in natural watercourses, among other provisions.

Among other related regulations are:

  • Political Constitution of Chile of 1980
  • General Services Law (Decree with Force of Law No. 382 of 1988).
  • Water Code of 1981 (as amended by Law No. 20.017 of 2005).

Development Programs and Plans

Chile has different development plans and programs, including: (i) the National Water Resources Policy (PNRH) 2015; (ii) the Regional Infrastructure and Water Resource Management Plans to 2021 (PRIGRH); and (iii) the National Water Resources Strategy (ENRH) 2012-2025.