Avina and its allies seek to guarantee sustainable and fair
access to water and sanitation services in Latin America.

A Scarce and Vital Liquid

Access to clean water is becoming a matter of geopolitical importance. With 1.2 billion people living in areas of physical water scarcity and 47% of the world’s population expected to be living in areas of high water stress by 2030 according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, it is not inconceivable that future conflicts of this century may be fought not over territory or oil, but the planet’s water sources.

Since 2009, Avina has recognized access to water and sanitation as an essential and indispensable human right, closely linked to human dignity. In July 2010, the United Nations (UN) did the same, recognizing water access as vital for survival and essential for the individual’s full participation in society. Clean water and sanitation services are also essential for economic security, environmental integrity and social cohesion.

Today there are 884 million people in the world who lack access to clean water, making it difficult to meet their basic needs. Limited access forces the population to use contaminated water sources, which can lead to potentially fatal diseases. There are also significant social and economic impacts from water scarcity. Women and girls in areas where water is scarce walk an average of six hours a day to reach a source of water—usually contaminated—to provide for their families. This acts as a deterrent to education and more productive activities, reinforcing the vicious cycle of poverty.

Water-shortage problems are just as acute for low-income households in Latin America as they are for some of the driest areas of the planet. That is particularly troubling, given that South America is one of the planet’s highest rainfall regions and has 31% of the world’s fresh-water reserves. This situation coincides with the UN’s affirmation that the worldwide water shortage is more a matter of poor management rather than an actual shortage.


From Rare Coins to Blue Gold

Latin America has an abundance of water and the potential to distribute it efficiently to all who need it but management needs to be more effective. National, regional and municipal governments have the duty of protecting their citizens by ensuring access to water and sanitation services. Too often, however, governments have not been able to fulfill these responsibilities, especially with rural populations and others just outside of major metropolitan areas not served by a public or private water service. Civil associations stepped into the gap, developing community water management programs to meet the need.

Across Latin America, more than 40 million people from rural and outlying communities receive water and sanitation services from community associations and democratic water management systems. There are more than 80,000 Community Organizations for Water and Sanitation Services (Organizaciones Comunitarias de Agua y Saneamiento, or OCSAS) in the region providing access to water.

Studies by the Water and Sanitation Program and the World Bank suggest that these types of water management practices could potentially reach an additional 18 million people if they had more support and recognition from local governments, private companies and the general population. Conscious of this great potential, Avina works with a network of allies in the region to strengthen democratic water management models, with the goal of extending access to sustainable clean water services to another 5 million people over the next several years. 



The executive director of Fundación Avina, Sean McKaughan,
during the inauguration of the Second Latin American Community
Water Management Convention, in Cusco, Peru.

Strides Toward Sustainable
Water Management

In September 2011, more than 600 representatives of OCSAS, government officials and members of international organizations met in Cusco, Peru for the “Second Latin American Community Water Management and Sanitation Convention.” Along with Fundación Avina, conference organizers included Peru’s Sanitation Service Management Committees (Juntas Administradoras de Servicios de Saneamiento, or JASS), Peru’s Ministry of Housing, Construction, and Sanitation, the Regional Government of Cusco and the Safe Water Network of Peru. The event was given official status by local authorities.

The objective of the event was to share experiences, strengthen collaborative efforts and partnerships, and provide organizations with financial management tools, all to improve water management and sanitation services.

At the Cusco conference, Fundación Avina presented Models of Democratic Governance of Water in Latin America, the first publication that frames community water management best practices within a region-wide vision for Latin America. The publication, with a foreword by 2009 Nobel Economics Laureate Elinor Ostrom, presents three approaches to democratic and sustainable access to water in Latin America. The first cites OCSAS as a model for the provision of water services in the community; the second refers to the Articulación en el Semiárido (ASA) in the northeast of Brazil as a way of applying democratic decision-making to community resource management; and the third presents the case of the Matanza-Riachuelo basin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where citizens used constitutional tools to ensure access to clean water for the community.

An important outcome of the event was the establishment of the Latin American Confederation of OCSAS by representatives of community water and sanitation associations from 14 Latin American countries. Avina is proud to have played a role in the establishment of the Confederation by promoting the event, ensuring that the most active national officials could attend, and providing a setting conducive to building a united regional approach.


Increase and Improve Access to Water

Avina and its allies work to strengthen citizens’ water access and sanitation initiatives throughout Latin America. In 2011, 1.44 million people in the region enjoyed access to water or sanitation services due to initiatives supported by Avina and its partners.

Avina has drawn attention to citizens’ initiatives for access to water and has encouraged community leaders to make their efforts visible nationally and internationally. It has also organized community and government forums and international events so that citizens can more easily voice their concerns to relevant community officials and political representatives. Avina also spreads best practices that have been proven successful in solving water access challenges with an eye toward scaling them up and replicating them elsewhere.

In addition, Avina has helped channel more resources toward these initiatives with the help of the private sector, governments and international aid agencies.

The Voices of Water. Experiences of women committed to community water management programs. Available in Spanish only



Avina’s publication Models of Democratic Governance of Water in Latin America describes three Latin American models of sustainable and democratic water management. Download here.


Our main regional allies and co-investors for this opportunity are:

Avina continuously identifies possible partners and forms alliances with important organizations to implement water access strategies in Latin America and to make OCSAS’ work more impactful. These include the following organizations:

  • CARE International and Ecology and Development (ECODES), with which Avina has established the Consorcio Agua Clara to increase and improve access to water in Latin America;
  • Latin American Confederation of Community Organizations for Water and Sanitation Services (CLOCSAS), which brings together OCSAS representatives of 14 Latin American countries and their national networks;
  • The CAMAREN Consortium of Ecuador, AQUACOL of Colombia, AGUATUYA of Bolivia and La Asociación Hondurena de Juntas Administradoras de Sistemas de Agua (AHJASA), with which Avina has developed a program to improve management of community water and sanitation services that can be adapted and applied to any Latin American country;
  • World Bank, via the Water and Sanitation Program, and
  • The Coca-Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola South Latin America Division, to implement effective water management programs in multiple communities.