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Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka

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Area: 5888268 km2
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Santa Cruz; Manaus; La Paz
HydroBasin Level:
Baseline Water Stress:
Water Quality Stress:
Sanitation Access Stress:
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3.24 out of 5
WWF Country Risk Score
22 out of 248 Countries
WWF Country Rank
Total Organizations: 10
Total Projects: 1
Priority SDGs: Increase Access to Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (SDG 6.1 & 6.2)
Water Quality (SDG 6.3)
Water Use Efficiency (SDG 6.4)
Integrated Water Resource Management (SDG 6.5)
Protect and Restore Ecosystems (SDG 6.6)
Stakeholder Participation (SDG 6.b)
Water-Related Disaster Management (SDG 11.5)
Sustainable Production (SDG 12.4)
Climate Resilience and Adaptation (SDG 13.1)
Priority Regions: --
Priority Industries: Biotech, health care & pharma
Food, beverage & agriculture
Power generation
Organization Types:
NGO / Civil Society
Bilateral and / or Intergovernmental Agency
International Organization
Multi-stakeholder Organization
Profile Completion: 73%

Water-Related Challenge Costs

Total annual estimated cost to address all water-related challenges: $3,218,690,167.00

Share of total annual estimated cost to address each individual challenge (2015 $USD):

  • Access to Drinking Water: $477,459,869.00 - [15%]
  • Access to Sanitation: $373,659,793.00 - [12%]
  • Industrial Pollution: $314,393,151.00 - [10%]
  • Agricultural Pollution: $161,059,718.00 - [5%]
  • Water Scarcity: $1,355,669,275.00 - [42%]
  • Water Management: $536,448,361.00 - [17%]

For more about this data, see information on WRI’s Achieving Abundance dataset here.

Water Challenges

As reported by organizations on the Hub.

Access to Water Supply and Water Services
Land Use Issues
Local Water Resource Governance
Physical water supply

Country Overview

1.1.1.WATER RESOURCES Sri Lanka’s radial network of rivers begins in the central highlands. There are about 103 distinct river basins covering 90 per cent of the country. The southwest quarter of the island has seven major basins with catchment areas ranging from 620 to 2,700km². They are: Kelani ganga (2,292km²), Kalu ganga (2,719km²), Maha oya (1,528km²), Attanagalla oya (736km²), Gin ganga (932km²), Nilwala ganga (971km²) and Bentota ganga (629km²). An exception to the radial pattern is the largest basin, that of the 335km-long Mahaweli River, which has a catchment area of 10,448km². After leaving the central highlands, it runs north for 90km from Minipe to Manampitiya and then a further 70km through several distributaries as far as Verugal and Mutur on the east coast. Most Sri Lankan river basins are small; only 17 of the 103 basins exceed 1,000km². In addition to the Mahaweli basin, four others are larger than 2,500km². Three of these (Deduru oya, Kala oya and Malwatu oya) have their entire catchment area in the dry zone. Only Kalu ganga is in the wet zone. Total runoff in Sri Lanka is estimated at 49.2 km3/yr. Groundwater resources have been extensively used since ancient times for domestic purposes using shallow open wells in almost all parts of the country. Sri Lanka’s largest aquifer extends over 200km in the northwestern and northern coastal areas. There are about 15,000 tube-wells in the country. The quality of the groundwater is generally fairly good and relatively constant throughout the year. However, in some parts of the country (northern and northwestern coastal areas) excessive concentrations of iron and nitrates (due to agrochemicals and fertilizers) have been reported. Furthermore, due to uncontrolled abstraction of groundwater for domestic and agricultural uses, brackish water intrusion has occurred in the coastal areas. In 1985, estimated internal renewable groundwater resources were 7.8km3, most (around 7km3/yr) returning to the river systems and being included in the surface water resources estimate. In 1991, the total internal renewable water resources of the country were estimated at 50km³/yr. Economic development, population pressure and growing demand for food production, electric power and adequate water and sanitation services are placing increasing pressure on water resources. The demand for water has outstripped supply, particularly in the country’s dry zone, where most irrigation schemes are located. In 1996, total dam capacity in Sri Lanka was 5.942km3. Dams in Sri Lanka are classed according to the materials they use. They are mainly earthen, rockfill or concrete dams. Earthen dams are the most common type, the longest being the Parakrama Samudraya Dam, which is 13.5km long with a storage capacity of 0.12km3. The highest in this category is the Senanayake Samudraya Dam at 44m, with a storage capacity of 0.95km3. The Victoria dam, built under the Mahaweli multipurpose project, is the highest concrete (double curvature) dam, with a height of 106m and storage capacity of 0.73km3. The gross theoretical hydropower potential in Sri Lanka is estimated at 8,000 GWh/yr. In 1997, 16 hydropower plants were in operation with an installed capacity of 1,103MW. Hydropower accounted for 81 per cent of electricity generation in Sri Lanka.

1.1.2.WATER USE Large-scale development of water resources for irrigation and hydropower has progressed rapidly over the last 50 years. In Sri Lanka, the quantities of water required for industrial and domestic uses are low compared to irrigation and hydropower. In 1990, water withdrawal for agricultural activities was estimated at 9.38km3. The corresponding values for domestic and industrial activities were 0.195km3 each. Groundwater is an important source of water for irrigation and domestic use. It is increasingly used as drinking water, especially in small towns and rural areas. The total estimated water demand for 2000 was 10.92km3. Of this, 90 per cent was for agriculture, 7 per cent for domestic purposes and 3 per cent for industry. Supply of drinkable water to communities is in the early stages of development. In 1992, 53 per cent of the population (87 per cent of the urban and 49 per cent of the rural population) had access to safe drinking water. Other people used unprotected wells, rivers and tanks. High incidences of water-illnesses (120,000 recorded hospitalizations per year for diarrhoea) indicate that there is a serious water quality problem. The government has given high priority to providing water supply to urban communities where groundwater is contaminated. The government spends about US$45 million/yr to provide the population with piped water. Sri Lanka’s only public sewer system is in Colombo. It serves about 20 per cent of the Colombo metropolitan region and the collection is not treated. Very few industries have treatment plants while others discharge straight into waterways.

1.2.WATER QUALITY, ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH Major environmental problems in Sri Lanka include: deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanization; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; and air pollution in Colombo.

Country Water Profile

Coming Soon

Organizations in Sri Lanka

Transforming a Billion Lives. We are a Singapore-based socially purposed company on a mission to "Transform a Billion Lives". We operate at the intersection of climate action, social impact, and capital efficiency. We design, operate and finance distributed infrastructure projects … Learn More

Global Fabric and Thread manufacturer, with significant goals and tragets related to water stewardship. Member of CEO Water Mandate. Learn More

Developing European Environmental Policy The European Commission develops and implements EU policies by proposing laws to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union helping EU countries implement EU legislation managing the EU's budget and allocating funding ensuring that … Learn More

The Global Water Partnership (GWP) is a global action network with over 3,000 Partner organisations in 179 countries. The network has 68 accredited Country Water Partnerships and 13 Regional Water Partnerships. The network is open to all organisations involved in … Learn More

Conserve water and help secure water access in those areas at greatest risk: Implement tools to reduce the water footprint of our hotels Mitigate water risk through stakeholder collaboration to deliver water stewardship at basin level Collaborate to ensure adequate … Learn More

To use technology to challenge poverty in transitional economic context; working with poor people to Build their capabilities Improve their access to technical options and knowledge, and Help them influence the social, economic and institutional systems for innovation and use … Learn More

To optimise plantation productivity and ensure highest quality by harnessing and developing employee potential, whilst improving the quality of life of the community and securing an acceptable return on investment. Learn More

To protect rainforests Learn More

Produce and market quality teas that delight our customers... Drive sustainable growth... Enhance shareholder value... Learn More

Our Vision is widespread implementation of sustainable chemistry, driving innovations and best practices in textile, apparel and footwear industries to protect consumers, workers and the environment. Our Mission is to enable brands and retailers in the textile, apparel, and footwear … Learn More

Projects in Sri Lanka

Every Drop Matters (EDM) is a unique partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and The Coca-Cola Company, which works across Europe and the CIS, the Arab States and Asia. Since they joined forces in 2006, the partners have … Learn More

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