|The Latin America and the Caribbean region is very rich in water resources. However, the demand for water is growing in some areas, including northern Mexico, Central America and the Andes, while the management of drinking water and effluents poses aproblem in many cities. An estimated 75 million people in the region (seven per cent of the urban population and 39 per cent of the rural population) do not have access to water of acceptable quality. Sixty per cent of urban and rural households do not have regular water supply. Some 116 million people (13 per cent of the urban population and 52 per cent of the rural population) do not have access to sanitation services (IDB 2004).
In Mexico, where the Fourth World Water Forum will be held in March 2006, around 70 per cent of the water extracted is used for irrigation, livestock production, and aquaculture. Most of the water – 64 percent – is from surface water sources. Overexploitation of aquifers is also a problem. In 2004, 104 aquifers (16 per cent of all aquifers) were considered overexploited, compared to 32 in 1975.
In 2005, about 35 million people in Mexico were living in conditions of “water stress”, with 1 700 m3 of water or less per person annually, and another 24 million are in danger of being in a similar situation (CNA 2005). Widespread privatization of water services has led to social unrest over rising prices in many areas, but alternative approaches have tried to tackle the problem.
For example, the Agua para Todos (Water for All) programme in Cochabamaba, Bolivia, provides engineering design, building material, training and micro-credit loans to local communities to build, manage and own their own sustainable water distribution system, thus greatly reducing the cost of water.
Agua para Todos received the 2005 International Seed Award from UNEP, IUCN and UNDP, which is aimed to inspire, support and develop locally driven entrepreneurial partnerships (IUCN and others 2005).