Water Crisis El Salvador


Andres McKinley

McKinleyThe profound crisis of water resources in El Salvador, in terms of quality, quantity and access, is widely recognized and scientifically documented by national as well as international experts. The main cause of the current crisis is poor water management (pollution and over-exploitation) due to the lack of policies (General Water Law), practices and programs that ensure good governance. This problem affects us all in our daily lives, but it is the poor who suffer the most, especially women and children. 

Toxic waste and heavy metals from industry, poisonous chemicals from agricultural runoff and untreated sewage pollute more than 90% of our surface waters. At the same time, over-exploitation of aquifers generates water shortages for ecosystems and communities throughout the country.

This alarming situation has led international organizations, such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the Latin American Water Tribunal, to declare the country on the verge of water stress, meaning insufficient water resources to meet human demand. Confirming this view, a study by the Office of the Ombudsperson for the Defense of Human Rights in El Salvador concluded, in 2016, that El Salvador has a life expectancy as a viable country of approximately 80 years if we do not change dramatically the way we manage our water resources.

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The international dimensions of the fight for water in El Salvador

P. Cabezas

Local companies tied to foreign capital drive the push to privatize water magament and services in El Salvador.

manuel y Jen

The fight for the defence of water in El Salvador and the recent conflicts that have arisen between legislators and the movement for the defence of water are nothing new in this country.

Since 2006, environmental organizations in El Salvador have demanded the approval of the General Water Law, a bill that recognizes water as a human right and a common good that must be managed publicly with a focus on sustainability, priority and affordability for domestic use, as well as regulation of commercial and industrial use.

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Bishops of El Salvador warn against privatizing water

Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR — El Salvador's bishops urged lawmakers to discard any plans for privatizing water in the Central American country, saying the poor could not afford to pay the cost of a vital necessity.

In a terse statement, issued June 12 and titled, "We will not allow the poor to die of thirst," the Salvadoran bishops' conference cited Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which said, "Access to potable and secure water is a basic, fundamental and universal human right because it determines the survival of people and therefore is a condition for the exercising of all other rights."

El Salvador's legislature is starting debate on a national water law. The legislation is proving controversial because some lawmakers favor increased private-sector participation in water management.

The bishops' conference preferred that public oversight of water resources be maintained.

"If a law is approved that grants a private entity the right to decide over distribution of water in the nation, denying the state this function, we would be facing an absolutely undemocratic law, which lacks legitimacy," the bishops said.

"An unjust law that violates the rights of the people cannot be admitted."

The bishops continued: "As pastors, we are witnesses to the outcry of our people, who ask for potable water in all homes and could not pay the costs if (water) is turned into a good, which is subject to market forces."


Water 2.0 - Salvadoreans take to the streets to battle renewed attempts to privatize water resources

P. Cabezas

Barely six weeks have passed since the newly elected, right wing dominated legislature took office, but recent frictions between security personnel of the legislature and university students protesting the potential privatization of water already paint a grim picture of things to come for social movements in El Salvador.  

uno dos tres cuatro cinocoDuring the month of May, parliamentarians moved to ratify the mining prohibition approved in March 2016 and to shelve all pending requests related to the mining file, at the same time, the Environment and Climate Change Commission, ECCC, moved to reopen a long overdue discussion on water legislation, but hinting to privatization.

Since 2006, environmental organizations of El Salvador have pressured lawmakers to approve laws that recognize water as a human right and as a common good that should be publicly managed with focus on sustainability, accessible domestic use and regulation of commercial and industrial use.

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Church in El Salvador backs law declaring clean, affordable water as a human right

Melissa Vida : America Magazine

The archbishop of San Salvador, Jose Luis Escobar Alas, points to Blessed Oscar Romero’s portrait on a shelf in his office. “Blessed Romero, is, without a doubt, a role model for us,” he tells America. “He is the one who marked a turning point in our history, when the [Salvadoran] Church became preoccupied with human rights.”

Over the past decade, the Salvadoran Church has been increasingly vocal about a dire human rights situation in this country: the access to fresh water. In 2017, the archdiocese, along with the Jesuit-run University of Central America, spearheaded the movement to ban mining for gold and other metals, practices that produced considerable water pollution. Now the church is working to protect the human right to water and fighting the privatization of the resource.

“Water is monopolized and contaminated by industries,” Archbishop Escobar Alas says. “There isn’t a law that guarantees the access to water for the poor, the people, the multitudes, but there is total freedom for businesses.” (Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, appointed by Pope Francis last year, is the auxiliary bishop of San Salvador.)

For nearly two decades, El Salvador has considered but failed to pass such a comprehensive law. Instead there are many contradictory and hypertechnical laws, with loopholes that allow the abuse and misuse of water.

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Xenia Marroquìn: “Water is not a merchandise, it is a human right”

By: Gloria Silvia Orellana - CoLatino / Translated by: Samy Beltaief

Xenia Marroquìn, coordinator of Foro del Agua, regrets the decision of the Constitutional Commission to refuse the proposal to reform article 69 of the Constitution, which proposes to recognize food s and the access to water as a human right.

This is deplorable. We, as organizations and social movements, are going to denounce it, and will be holding the members of parliament accountable. The problem is that they consider water as a merchandise and not as a fundamental human right.

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