SEATTLE, Washington — Having access to clean water should be a basic human right for people all over the world. However, obtaining clean water is not always so easy in developing countries like Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in South America. In 2000, especially during its water war in Cochabamba, Bolivian citizens had a limited supply of clean water in Bolivia. After the privatization of the water system, prices surged and it became illegal to collect rainwater. This led to extreme protests in Cochabamba where protestors spoke out against abusive water laws. As a result, the government decided to stop increasing the prices of water and vowed to eliminate its privatization program.
Contaminated Water Causes Health Issues
Even after the water war, many citizens still grappled with access issues. As of 2017, more than “three million people in rural areas” did not have clean water. For this reason, many people who live in the countryside suffer from gastrointestinal illnesses from contaminated water. Contamination has the potential to increase since Bolivia faces environmental threats that can greatly deplete or harm already existing water sources.
Drought Threatens Water Security
The year 2016 brought the worst drought Bolivia has seen since the ’80s. More than 400,000 people in cities across the country did not have an adequate water supply. As explained by the United Nations, an important cause of the decline is that 40% of Bolivia’s glaciers have melted in the last 20 years. Water rationing is common in urban areas and the lack of water also impacts rural areas and small farms where crop yields diminish yearly
Clean Water Initiative
A project called WEAP, or the Water Evaluation And Planning tool, helps the country foresee and plan the future of water security for its citizens. This tool provides officials with a detailed model of Bolivia’s lakes, streams and rivers to calculate water security at the current moment and in the years to come. WEAP, formed in efforts to improve water conditions in areas all over the country, gives measurements about the available water supply using satellites. The program also trained 40 water planners to process the data.
The Bolivian government vowed to allocate millions of dollars to resolving water scarcity concerns. Under the leadership of President Evo Morales, it has kept its word by dedicating almost $3 million in the past 13 years towards securing access to clean water, sanitation and irrigation systems. Investments are also still rising, which is promising for the citizens of Bolivia.
All of these steps have put Bolivia on the right path toward ensuring clean water for all of its citizens. Around 86% of the entire population now has access to safe drinking water, and more than 95% of city residents can obtain clean water. Additionally, 78% of rural residents no longer have to worry about water security, which is almost a 35% increase since 2005.
So far, the Bolivian government is seeing great success in reaching its goal to provide clean water access to the entire population by 2025. In 2009, the Bolivian Constitution officially declared access to drinking water and sanitation a human right. The Bolivian people came together to form “water committees” to spread information about the management of water resources, sanitation and environmental challenges.
– Karin Filipova