Background Gradient


Nicaragua is a country located in Central America with a population of almost 7 million inhabitants. Despite being a relatively small country, its varied elevation and topography create a wide range of climatic variation. Nicaragua can be subdivided into three main climatic zones: the Carribean zone, the Central zone, and the Pacific coast. The Caribbean zone is one of the wettest areas in Central America, while the central zone has drier weather and more extreme temperatures due to its topographic variation. The Pacific coast is characterized by high temperatures and lower rainfall than the Caribbean region. This climatic diversity creates different challenges for water management and sanitation throughout the country.

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 the 2014 National Household Survey on Measurement of the Level of Lives, which surveyed 6,815 representative households. The survey collects some data on water in their household surveys in accordance with the WHO / UNICEF guidelines. The Nicaraguan survey is one of the oldest used in OLAS since more recent surveys are not available. The survey does not provide metrics to estimate non-piped improved water sources, or differentiate between improved and unimproved latrines, making it difficult to accurately estimate SDGs 6.1 and 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 Nicaragua varies significantly between urban and rural areas, where urban households enjoy much higher access coverage. Approximately 43% of Nicaraguans live in rural areas.

Inequality in Nicaragua is evident when viewing the income quintiles from the country’s 2014 household survey. Each quintile represents 20% of Nicaraguan households, with the 1st quintile representing the households with the lowest per capita income, and the 5th representing households with the highest per capita income in the country. Income inequality is a challenge in Nicaragua, as the average income per capita of households in the top quintile is 20.4 times higher than that of the bottom quintile.

Average monthly household income by quintile in local currency


Urbanization rate



Water access

Water access

Overall Nicaraguans have low levels of piped water access when comparied to the rest of the region and Nicaraguans living in urban areas enjoy greater access to piped water sources at home, as opposed to Nicaraguans living in rural communities. For example, 58% of urban Nicaraguan households have piped water in their homes, in comparison to only 13% of rural households. At the same time, there are important socioeconomic differences in the level of access – only 40% of the poorest households have piped water to their home or plot, in comparison with 84% of households in the top income quintile.

Split data by:

Water Access Data by Quintile and Access Area

The above sankey diagram shows water access data disag by community (rural/urban), income quintile, and the type of water access (piped in-home, to plot, or other improved source). 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 in Nicaragua shows several inequalities of access. Nicaragua has low sewer coverage, with only 23% of homes having a connection to the sewer system. Most of this corresponds to urban households, where 40% have a sewer connection. Less than 1% of rural households are connected to the sewer system, one of the lowest proportions in the region. Connections to septic takes are also rare, with only 16% of urban households and 4% of rural households having septic tanks. Approximately 43% of households use unimproved latrines as their main sanitation solutionor do not have sanitary facilities, which presents health and environmental risks. Additionally, 15% of rural households do not have any sanitary facilities.

Split data by:

Sanitation Data by Quintile and Access Area

The above sankey diagram shows sanitation access data broken down by community (rural/urban), income quintile, and the 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

Nicaragua is the country with the highest aggregate water resources in Central America, with a per capita water availability of 25,767 m3/person/year. The country is divided into 21 watersheds distributed in two large hydrographic basins: i) the Pacific basin, which contains 12 rivers and 60% of the country’s population, and ii) the Atlantic Ocean basin, which contains 51 of the country’s rivers.

Water Stress

Nicaragua is classified as a country with low water stress. Despite this, the contamination of surface and groundwater resources has had a great impact on water availability in the country. Because of this, Nicaragua is considered to have economic water scarcity.

Wastewater Treatment

There is no information about the percentage of wastewater treatment in Nicaragua. However, it is known that Empresa Nicaragüense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (ENACAL) has a total of 65 wastewater treatment plants in operation and 3 plants under construction in the cities of Bilwi, Juigalpa, and Condega. The Managua Wastewater Treatment Plant is part of the Managua Lake Basin Management Program, which includes the rehabilitation and expansion of Managua’s sewerage system and will treat effluents from more than sixty (60) industries and the borders of the 1,000 km2 aquifer, which has been receiving wastewater since 1927.

Water and Sanitation Management

Water and Sanitation Management

Institutional Framework

In Nicaragua there are different government entities that have water and sanitation sector functions, with charges related to: i) the formulation of policies, strategies and guidelines; ii) regulation; iii) inspection; iv) policy implementation; v) management in the conservation, protection and use of water resources; and vi) provision of water and sanitation services, among others.

Development Programs and Plans

The water and sanitation sector plans and programs implemented in Nicaragua include:

  • Integral Sectoral Program for Water and Human Sanitation of Nicaragua (PISASH)
  • National Human Development Plan (PNDH)
  • Water and Sanitation Technical Assistance Program (PROATAS)
  • Water and Sanitation Network of Nicaragua (RASNIC)