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Area: 5888268 km2
Brazil; Peru; Suriname; France; Colombia; Guyana; Bolivia; Venezuela; Ecuador
Santa Cruz; Manaus; La Paz
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City & Country

Water-Related Challenge Costs

Total annual estimated cost to address all water-related challenges: $4,847,731,295.00

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

  • Access to Drinking Water: $255,126,080.00 - [5%]
  • Access to Sanitation: $467,571,517.00 - [10%]
  • Industrial Pollution: $1,287,475,509.00 - [27%]
  • Agricultural Pollution: $612,337,799.00 - [13%]
  • Water Scarcity: $1,417,265,174.00 - [29%]
  • Water Management: $807,955,216.00 - [17%]

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

Water Challenges

As reported by organizations on the Hub.

Local Water Resource Governance

Country Overview

1.1.1.WATER RESOURCES Surface water covers about 1,000km2 of the 108,900km2 land area of Guatemala. Although surface water resources are abundant, they are unequally distributed, highly seasonal, and generally polluted. Fresh groundwater from wells and springs is an essential resource and a major source of potable water and is used for agricultural, industrial, public, and domestic demand. Ground water is generally plentiful from sedimentary aquifers throughout the plains, valleys, and lowlands of the country. The two most substantial aquifers are the Pacific coastal plain alluvium and the karstic and fractured limestone that extend beneath the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, Sierra de Chama, and Peten lowlands. Other more limited aquifers are important for small-scale local demands. The mountains and hills of Guatemala contain many other types of aquifers, including volcanic pyroclastic and lava deposits, low permeability sediments, igneous, and metamorphic aquifers. Alluvial plains, valleys and lowlands make up about 50 per cent of the country's territory and contain about 70 per cent of the available groundwater reserves. Guatemala has 23 major lakes and another 119 that together cover an area of 950km2. The storage capacity of up to half the lakes in Guatemala is used solely for hydroelectric energy generation - the volume of water is in the order of 524 million m3. The Chixoy hydroelectric dam is the largest of the hydroelectric reservoirs with an effective capacity of 275MW which supplies 15 per cent of the country's electricity demand. An important lake to highlight, located near Guatemala City, is the once pristine Lake Amatitlán which is now long degraded from years of domestic and industrial dumping, and deforestation. Each year large quantities of untreated sewage, industrial effluent and around 500,000 tons of sediment are carried into Lake Amatitlán through the lake's primary inflow source, the Villalobos River, causing high levels of water pollution and an accelerated rate of eutrophication and siltation. The lake is drained by the Michatoya River which is a tributary of the María Linda River. The town of Amatitlán is located at the head of the Michatoya river. A dam with a railway on top was constructed at the narrowest point, thus effectively dividing the lake into two water bodies with different physical, chemical and biological characteristics. The lake is used as a water source for navigation and transportation, sightseeing and tourism, recreation, and fisheries. The Lake Atitlán basin is a closed watershed or endorheic lake located in the volcanic highlands of Guatemala. This lake is the deepest lake in Central America with estimated depths of at least 340 metres. However much of the lake has not been completely sounded for depth, therefore accurate capacity is not well understood. Competing uses place high demand on the waters of Lake Atitlán and serious problems of water pollution, soil erosion, and forest loss are prevalent. In 1996 the Authority for the Sustainable Management of the Atitlán Basin (AMSCLAE) was established which produced a master plan in 2000. However, the plan is still under revision and only a few measures are actually being implemented.

1.1.2.WATER USE Irrigation in Guatemala is concentrated in three regions of the country: -The Atlantic coast region has low humidity and high evapotranspiration so irrigation is needed for the cultivation of bananas, tomatoes, watermelon, and tobacco. -The high plains region has very little rain for much of the year and has fertile volcanic soils that do not retain moisture very well. Without irrigation, there is only one harvest per year so crops such as basic grains require irrigation. -The lower coastal zones have irrigated sugarcane and banana plantations. Irrigation in Guatemala is divided into three key types: i) private irrigation (often a gravity water system), normally controlled by a family, company, or community agriculture system; ii) state owned and operated irrigation programmes and; iii) small-scale communal irrigation systems which normally are very efficient. The operation and maintenance of state-run irrigation systems is paid for through fees based on the surface area irrigated, not on how much water is used. Generally, the fees collected do not cover the real costs of the energy needed to irrigate the land. More recently a fee has been introduced aimed at covering this difference that includes an annual payment for a period of 40 years whereby the state will recuperate about 60 per cent of the money invested on projects. The master plan for irrigation and drainage (Plan de Accion para la Modernizacion y Fomento de la Agricultura Bajo Riego) (PLAMAR) is effectively the technical division of irrigation and drainage under the Ministry of Agriculture. Furthermore, PLAMAR is the national action plan for the modernization and promotion of lands under irrigation while promoting and coordinating irrigation projects. PLAMAR identified 2,094.19km² under cultivation that had drainage problems; although regions under irrigation (1,693.02km² ) did not show evidence of drainage or salinity problems. The lack of an adequate infrastructure to drain large amounts of water quickly has caused flooding problems in the southern coastal regions. Beginning in the 1970s, Guatemala became heavily invested in hydropower with the construction of large hydroelectric dams. The Chixoy hydroelectric project provides about 15 per cent of the country's power. By 1990, hydropower accounted for 92 per cent of Guatemala's total electricity generation, with oil and diesel fired plants accounting for the rest. The National Institute of Electricity (INDE) (El Instituto Nacional de Electrificacion) encouraged the private sector to build over 1,000MW of new hydropower in Guatemala. Additionally, INDE constructed the following Country Overview - Guatemala projects: 340MW Chulac; 130MW Xalala; 135-MW Serchil; 69MW Oregano; 60MW Santa Maria II; 59MW Camotan; and the 23MW El Palmar. In 2008, Guatemala was either planning or constructing about 25 hydroelectricity plants throughout the country totalling approximately 2,500 MW.

1.2.WATER QUALITY, ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH Major environmental problems are deforestation in the Peten rainforest, soil erosion, and water pollution. Based on established biological and chemical standards, every water body in Guatemala is considered to be moderately if not critically contaminated. Upper aquifers in major urban areas are contaminated from a variety of sources. In Guatemala City, untreated storm water is injected into the upper aquifer in an attempt to recharge the water supply of the city. Leaching from landfill in Guatemala City has also severely contaminated the local aquifers and generally, only deep confined aquifers should be considered safe from biological and chemical contamination. Sewage from Guatemala City has caused the Villalobos and Las Vacas rivers to be considered the most contaminated streams in the country. Additionally, biological contamination of shallow aquifers by pathogens due to the improper disposal of human or animal wastes is a problem in many populated and rural areas of the country. In agricultural areas, pesticides are a primary source of contamination. Chemical contamination results from the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the sugarcane and banana plantations of the Pacific and Caribbean coastal plains. Along both coasts are streams, marshes, and swamps that contain large quantities of brackish or saline water and unless desalinated, these sources are unsuitable for most uses.

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Organizations in Guatemala

Support business and organisations achieve their sustainable development goals, through the application of life cycle approaches like water footprint and life cycle assessment Learn More

The Gap, Inc., commonly known as Gap Inc. or Gap, is an American worldwide clothing and accessories retailer. Our purpose is to be Inclusive, By Design. Gap Inc. includes apparel brands Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta. Learn More

"Contribuir a la disponibilidad del suministro de agua en el largo plazo para la Regi—n Metropolitana de Guatemala, concientizando sobre su uso responsable y llevando a cabo acciones eficientes de conservaci—n y de reducci—n de riesgo, a travŽs de alianzas … Learn More

As participants in God's mission of restoring humanity to wholeness, we work to end the human suffering caused the global water crisis. We apply our engineering expertise, international development experience, and faith to help the world's most vulnerable communities establish, … Learn More

Water stewardship has long been one of PepsiCo’s top priorities, and it's an important part of building a Positive Value Chain. As one of the first companies of our size to acknowledge water as a human right, we have a … Learn More

Water For People exists to promote the development of high-quality drinking water and sanitation services, accessible to all, and sustained by strong communities, businesses, and governments. OUR VISION A world where every person has access to reliable and safe water … Learn More

The Water Resilience Coalition, founded in 2020, is an industry-driven, CEO-led coalition of the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate that aims to elevate global water stress to the top of the corporate agenda and preserve the world's freshwater resources … Learn More

Whirlpool Corporation is fiercely committed to helping our consumers improve their lives at home through the use of our products. We design our products with our consumers in mind—including innovative features that save time, reduce costs and lower their environmental … Learn More

Projects in Guatemala

Help us restore native forests across the Chignecto Isthmus. This internationally recognized ecosystem connects Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada, and is vital for communities, wildlife, and our shared climate Ð but only if we can protect it first. … Learn More

This project, a collaboration between TCCC and TNC, achieved the conservation and restoration of 243.23 hectares in the Xaya-Pixcaya watershed in the Department of Chimaltenango, Guatemala. The Xaya and Pixcaya rivers provide approximately 30% of the water supply for Guatemala … Learn More

The project area is located in the El Zapote watershed, part of a group of 15 watersheds that provide water for the Metropolitan Guatemala City region (Figure 1). The properties are located in the Cordillera Alux Forest Reserve, which is … Learn More

We are a Water Fund whose mission is to contribute to the availability of water supply in the long term for the Metropolitan Region of Guatemala, raising awareness about its responsible use and carrying out efficient conservation and risk reduction … Learn More

Under the SDG 6 IWRM Support Programme, with support of UNEP, GWP, UNEP-DHI and UNDP Cap-Net, Guatemala developed an IWRM Action Plan in 2018-2019. Out of this Action Plan, the action 'Identification and Strengthening of Watershed Technical Committees' was chosen … Learn More

Created in 2014, this project aims at: Reinforce the movement towards coffee farming sustainability, limiting impacts of erosion on the one hand and developing new business opportunities for producers on the other hand; Empower a limited number of first level … Learn More

We supported UNICEF�s global response to the COVID-19 pandemic to expand efforts to keep children and their families safe from infection. Our donation of $450,000 and $55,000 in essential supplies, including water tanks and pipes manufactured by Orbia, helped address … Learn More

The project involves the distribution and installation of ONIL Stoves for use by households in Guatemala. Before the adoption of the ONIL Stove, households in Guatemala used inefficient, conventional open fire. The ONIL Stove is a fuel-efficient stove that reduces … Learn More

Plant a Billion Trees is an initiative where the interest of several companies converges that seeks to prioritize strategic areas to be reforested for water production, in areas of riparian forest and areas with greater social, economic, environmental, mitigation and … Learn More

In GB, together with The Rivers Trust we are working to implement a series of critical nature-based solutions, which will replenish water in some of the most water stressed areas. Funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation, the three-year programme will support … Learn More

Starbucks and Conservation International began an assessment of the water component of the Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices program in 2008, focused on 2 stages in the coffee value chain: cultivating, growing and harvesting coffee using methods that avoid … Learn More

Clean water is key to development. While 90% of Guatemalans living in rural dispersed communities have access to basic and safely managed water service, water quality is a problem, blocking economic and personal development. Water For People constructs piped water … Learn More

The project goal is to support the strengthening of long-term conservation mechanisms (Water Funds) in 11 basins of 6 countries in Latin America, implementing actions in the field, investing in more than 5,000 hectares in priority areas of watersheds key … Learn More

The objective of "Water for the Planet" is to establish a collaborative work between The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and PepsiCo to support the development and strengthening of the Water Funds, by investing in conservation actions to protect six supply areas … Learn More

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