Background Gradient


Ecuador is a country located in the Pacific Andean region of South America. It has a population of approximately 17.5 million people. Ecuador has a tropical climate but due to its orographic differences and relative proximity to the equator it has a large variety of micro climates. Three main regions are distinguished, the Andean region with temperate climates and lower humidity, the Amazon region with higher temperatures and rains, and the coastline with rains in winter periods. Hydrographic as well as population differences create a variety challenges regarding water and sanitation management.

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 Ecuador's 2020 National Survey of Employment, Unemployment and Underemployment, which surveyed 8,756 nationally representative households. Although there is a 2020 survey, the 2018 survey was used as it had more precise data on water and sanitation issues. The survey collects some data on water access and sanitation according to the WHO / UNICEF guidelines; however, it does not allow the categories of improved water to be correctly distinguished.

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

Data sources:

Progress Towards Measuring SDG 6


Access to water and sanitation in Ecuador varies significantly between urban and rural areas, where urban households enjoy much higher rates of access. Approximately 35% of Ecuadorians live in rural areas.

Inequality in Ecuador is evident when viewing the income quintiles of the country’s 2020 household survey. Each quintile represents 20% of Ecuadorian households, with the 1st quintile representing the lowest per capita income, and the 5th representing the highest income in the country. Income inequality is a problem in Ecuador, although less severe than other countries in the region, with the highest quintile having an average per capital income 11.5 times higher than that of the lowest quintile.

Average monthly household income by quintile in local currency


Urbanization rate



Water access

Water access

Most Ecuadorians live in urban areas that enjoy higher rates of access to piped water sources, while Ecuadorians living in rural communities face more difficulties, especially with regard to obtaining piped water for the home – only 34% of rural households have piped water to the home in comparison to 89% of urban households. Households with higher incomes in general have higher rates of access to water from a piped source to the home in both rural and urban areas. 9% of the lowest quintile in urban areas lacks piped water to the land or home, compared with approximately 2% of urban homes in the highest income quintile.

Split data by:

Water Access Data by Quintile and Access Area

The above sankey diagram shows water access data broken down by community, income quintile, location of water access, and continuity 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

Access to sanitation is a challenge in Ecuador, especially in rural areas where 14% of households reported no access to sanitation facilities. The divide between rural and urban access rates is significant: 99 percent of urban households have access to a septic system or the sewer system, while only 72 percent of rural households have access to one of these drainage options.

The Ecuador Household Survey is one of the few in the region that allows us to know if the septic tank has been maintained. Only about one third of the homes that use a septic tank report having ever emptied it, which can cause long-term sanitation problems.

Split data by:

Sanitation Data by Quintile and Access Area

The above sankey diagram shows sanitation access data broken down by community, income quintile, type of facility, and whether that facility is exclusive to the household. 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

Water availability in Ecuador can vary from 4,320 km3 in the rainy season to 146 km3 in the dry season. 86% of the country’s water resources flow through the Amazon and into the Atlantic Ocean while the remaining 14% flows into the Pacific Ocean. However, the Pacific watershed has much higher water demand, due to higher population densities and active agricultural and mining industries. The demand for water from the Atlantic watershed is lower and is concentrated in hydrocarbon, mining and recreational activities.

Water Stress

Ecuador is classified as a country with medium water stress. In addition, the country has a high level of water waste associated with domestic consumption, as well as inefficient use in agricultural and industrial activities and/or companies that use water resources in their production processes.
In the last 30 years, 40% of glaciers have been lost and 2 of the country’s 7 glacier coverages are at imminent risk. As part of the effects of climate change, Ecuador could face intensification of extreme weather events, sea-level rise and glacial retreat.

Wastewater Treatment

In Ecuador, 44% of domestic wastewater is treated safely. At the rural level, surface water treatment is almost nonexistent and usually stems from the lack of financial and technical capacity of the Juntas Administradoras de Agua. In 2019, 70.1 % of the Municipal Decentralized Autonomous Governments had one or more treatment plants for their urban wastewater, while 26.3% did not perform any treatment. The main problem in the country is related to the discharge of wastewater from artisanal mining, hydrocarbon activities, and agriculture into water bodies.

Water and Sanitation Management

Water and Sanitation Management

Institutional Framework

There are a number of national institutions that are charged with policy definition, planning, and management of water quality. The National Water Quality Strategy, Estrategia Nacional de Calidad del Agua (ENCA), established these responsiblities, with different entities exercising important functions in each of the following roles at the national level: i) steering; ii) coordination; iii) evaluation and monitoring; iv) regulation; v) control; vi) surveillance; and vii) service provision. In 2020, the Ministry of Environment (MAE) and the Secretariat of Water (SENAGUA) were merged into an entity called “Ministerio del Ambiente y Agua”.

Regulatory Framework

Ecuador has three main regulations in the water and sanitation sector:

(i) the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, which declares water as a State heritage for public use and assigns to the State the functions of administering, regulating, controlling and managing access to water for life and development; (ii) the Organic Law on Water Resources, Uses and Exploitation of Water (LORHUyA), which establishes the functions of the Single Water Authority and establishes the right to water for all people; and (iii) the Organic Code of Territorial Organization (COOTAD), which establishes the competencies for the provision of water and sanitation services and for watershed management.

Development Programs and Plans

There are 4 different plans and programs related to improving access to water and sanitation services in Ecuador:

Related Resources

Water Regulation and Control Agency Geoportal (GeoArca)

Institutional Geoportal of the Water Regulation and Control Agency (ARCA), which allows, through the geographic viewer, to interact with information related to the different areas of activity of the ARCA. From these applications it is possible to consult different geographic databases and identify information of interest related to water management.