Fisherman in El Salvador

On El Salvador’s dry Pacific slope, IUCN-WANI sponsored community pilot projects to deliver immediate tangible benefits while institutions were being developed for long-term sustainable water management. Delivering immediate results engages local people for the long haul. Working with the national government, WANI scaled up the community efforts to the basin level and, ultimately, to serve as a model for a national plan.

El Salvador

El Salvador, Central America’s smallest country, has the least forest cover and the highest population density and is the most vulnerable in terms of water security. This vulnerability is highest on the dry Pacific slope, where WANI worked in the El Impossible-Barra de Santiago Hydrographic Complex (BASIM), an area of 400 km² that includes 80,000 inhabitants.  The area is 83% agricultural, with subsistence farming and high pesticide use, but it also includes two protected areas: El Impossible National Park in the highlands, and Barra de Santiago along the coast. Land clearing for agriculture and pesticide runoff have affected the water cycle altering the recharge of the aquifer and polluting the water. Disputes over land tenure and unsustainable farming practices conflicted with use of the land for eco-tourism.

Enabled by new legislation and regulations to promote integrated water resources management (IWRM), WANI aimed to build local capacity for water management.  The first step was to develop livelihood projects  through the network of marine-coastal organization, RIO-C-MAS, and the network for community water supply, MESCOAGUA. The networks include turtle conservation groups, greenhouse nurseries, youth training organizations, community forestry associations, entrepreneurs, rainfall monitoring groups and others. To build capacity and cohesion, WANI facilitated training in legal regulations, business management and fundraising  –  skills also used by water management committees. Some early projects included monitoring mangrove harvesting and setting up a flood early-warning system.

As technical and administrative capacities grew, six community water administrative boards were organized and legally established. Cooperation between WANI and the El Salvador Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources led to the integration of project results into a national, Spanish-funded process to strengthen basin organizations in the whole country. This process culminated in the creation of a basin association – Basin Association for Cara Sucia-San Pedro Belén – which incorporated the BASIM project area, and adoption of the project methodology in the national plan for basin organizations.

Development of integrated water resources management at the local level has since continued with government and partner backing. This has included setting up local governance committees and water planning initiatives in other communities using the experiences gained from the WANI interventions. Water sharing concepts at a regional level, including the BASIM river basins, have been further developed under WANI-2.


Calidad del agua en el sur de Ahuachapán, El Salvador, C.A. from the IUCN website (Spanish)

Plan de monitoreo para la planta de tratamiento de aguas residuales en el sur de Ahuachapán, El Salvador, C.A. from the IUCN website (Spanish)

Testimonio histórico sobre los recursos naturales de la Barra de Santiago, El Salvador, Centroamérica : recuerdos y vivencias de Roberto Soriano y Juan Pérez Castillo from the IUCN website (Spanish)

Uso de agua en sistemas de riego en el sur de Ahuachapán, El Salvador, C.A. from the IUCN website (Spanish)

Análisis de las relaciones de equidad de género en el uso y manejo del agua en las poblaciones rurales del sur de Ahuachapán, El Salvador, C.A. from the IUCN website (Spanish)

Plan de monitoreo para sistemas de abastecimiento de pozos perforados en el Sur de Ahuachapán, El Salvador C.A. : menos de 5 mil usuarios y de 5 mil a 200 mil habitantes from the IUCN website (Spanish)

Plan de monitoreo para sistemas de abastecimiento de río o nacimiento en el Sur de Ahuachapán, El Salvador : menos de 5 mil usurarios y de 5 mil a 100 mil habitantes from the IUCN website (Spanish)