Water resources are scarce in Burkina Faso. Water availability varies greatly between regions and seasons, as well as from year to year. Access to water is a daily struggle and a source of conflict between populations. In 2013, the rate of access to drinking water was 63% in rural areas and 84% in urban areas. Many people still depend on surface water sources, such as rivers and ponds, which are vulnerable to shocks and disasters [1] .

The Government assumed that during the period of 2010-2015, Burkina Faso entered a period of permanent water stress during which water demand is increasingly likely to outstrip supply in dry years.


The three major river systems in Burkina Faso are tributaries of the Volta Rivers: the Black, the White and the Red Volta. The Volta River system drains approximately two-thirds of the country. Burkina Faso benefits from two other international river systems: the Niger River, draining 30% of the country’s land area in the east and north, and the Comoé River, draining 7% of the country’s surface area on the south. The only rivers in the country that carry water all year around are the Black Volta and the White Volta, the other rivers carrying water only during the wet season.

Water insecurity is due to low rainfall which imposes a relatively low annual recharge (about 1,200 mm in the southwest and 300 mm in the Sahel per year). Also, the mobilization infrastructure, although under development, remains insufficient and is often poorly maintained [1]. Groundwater is unevenly distributed and can only be extracted in certain areas, specifically in weathered areas above the bedrock and fractured zones [2].


Key policies and governance approach

At the central level, the General Directorate of Water Resources (DGRE) and the General Directorate for Wastewater Sanitation and Human Excreta (DGAEUE, created in 2008), working under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Fisheries (MAHRH) define those policies relating to drinking water and sanitation, respectively, and drive implementation of the PN-AEPA in rural and urban areas. The National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA) is the state company responsible for drinking water and sanitation services and implementation of the PN-AEPA in urban areas [3]The supply of water to large urban areas in a context of climate change and rapid urbanization will remain the main resource management challenges for Burkina Faso in the years to come. 

Concerning national plans and strategies, in the field of integrated water resources management, Burkina Faso adopted an action plan (Plan d’Action pour la Gestion Intégrale des Ressources en Eau, PAGIRE) in 2003 which emphasized gradual decentralization, in the same vein as the decentralization law. Areas of actions related are enabling environment, information system, procedures, research/development, human resources, information, education-awareness- advocacy, institutional framework and emergency measures. As the result of a broad national consensus, PAGIRE reflects the willingness of the country's actors to ensure effective governance [4]


Successes and remaining challenges

Burkina Faso is unlikely to meet the target it set for the drinking water sector: coverage stood at 59 percent in 2008, with the target set at 79 percent for 2015. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP)  however, suggest that, with coverage of 76 percent in 2008, Burkina Faso exceeded the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of 72 percent. If the current pace of  progress is sustained up to 2015, the country will therefore easily exceed this target [3]

The management structures set up in the basins, in accordance with the provisions of the PAGIRE are the Basin Management Committees: This is a joint body for consultation and decision-making on water management in the basin; the Basin Agency, which is an executive body for water management; the Local Water Committees have as an essential mission the local management of water resources.

They are set up according to the water development and management problems of sub-basins, aquifers, rivers, lakes, urban areas and works [4].


Initiatives and Development Plans

The river basin is devoted by the new law as the appropriate framework for planning and management of water resources. This is the place where the coordination of public actions and consultation must take place in order to prepare and implement, in the best conditions of rationality, the decisions taken in the field of water through the Master Plans for Water Development and Management (SDAGE) and the SAGE (Schemes for Water Development and Management). Article 3 of the orientation law on water specifies that water management takes into consideration, in their totality and their reciprocal relations, the scientific data and the links to any nature elements which characterize the river basins. To this end, the national territory is divided into four basins [4];  the Comoé Basin, the Mouhoun Basin, the Nakambé Basin and the Niger Basin.

USAID carries out programs in Burkina Faso that are providing rural residents better access to potable water, hygiene and sanitation and to prepare for the effects of climate change. USAID also helps local partners better manage water for improved incomes and food security. A separate partnership with Tuskegee University in the US and the International Institute for Water & Environmental Engineering (2iE) in Ouagadougou, strengthens 2iE’s leadership role in a regional network of Centers of Excellence in water, environmental science, and technology. This enhances the capacity of participating West African higher education institutions to respond to national and regional goals for water use, environmental conditions, and climate change through courses, research, and outreach innovations and academic exchanges [5].

The European Union has strengthened its commitment to support the Burkinabe State in providing access to drinking water and sanitation through the signing in December 2020 of two grant contracts for a total amount of (€5,000,000), one with the Office Nationale de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement (ONEA) and the other with the Burkinabe Red Cross. These two projects are the result of a reallocation of funds initially intended for the hydro-agricultural development project around the Bambakari-Tin-Akoff Dam [6].


Goals and Ambitions

The overall review of the situation of water governance indicates that, despite the significant existing achievements, in terms of prospects and taking into account the complexity of the problem, the interweaving of challenges and their interdependence, and the time required to mobilize the necessary financial resources, which is likely to be the main constraint, it can be estimated that in the short and medium term, the following areas of action of the PAGIRE, which contribute to the improvement of water governance in Burkina Faso, will undergo a notable evolution [4]:

  • the enabling environment, with the availability of all the texts for the implementation of the Water Orientation Law developed and adopted by the government
  • the procedures, with a satisfactory level of support for the application of the application texts
  • the institutional framework, in particular with the setting up of basin management structures (Water Agencies, CLE and Basin Management Committee), in particular in the Nakanbé and Mouhoun basins;
  • the Water Information System, on which a good policy for planning, allocation and management of water resources will be based.

[7], [8]

  • Water, sanitation and hygiene must be included in the climate change adaptation and NDCs commitments in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030
  • Include water, sanitation and hygiene in climate change policy as a key adaptation strategy;
  • Improve climate resilience and adaptive capacity to extreme water-related disasters through risk and emergency management solutions by raising community awareness about risks and strengthening integrated water resources management programs;
  • Prioritise the development of national funding proposals that address water and climate change to ensure that they meet the criteria set by funds such as the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund.
  • The development of this organization for water management requires methodological support and the mobilization of significant financial resources in order to strengthen the capacities of the management structures in various areas: regulation, allocation, conflict management, information system, communication and advocacy, etc.