Côte d’Ivoire is blessed with abundant water resources, with significant surface and underground water reserves as well as numerous wetlands. The hydrographic network includes approximately 537 rivers  including 4 major river systems running from North to South (Bandama, Comoé, Sassandra and Cavally) . Groundwater, for its part, is found throughout the territory, with variable storage and accessibility conditions. Though the country has significant water resources, they are unevenly distributed over the national territory. The South of the country is well watered, in comparison to the North, where certain areas face chronic water shortages .
Like several other localities (Korhogo, Aboisso), the city of Bouaké is regularly marked by numerous interruptions in the distribution of drinking water . In 2018, Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire’s second largest city, and its surroundings experienced an extreme water shortage, which left about 1.5 million inhabitants without drinking water. This water shortage resulted from the drying up of the Loka dam, which is the main source of drinking water for this region. Several factors may have contributed to this, including land use change (quarries) .
In addition, water demand is increasing in Côte d’Ivoire due to demographic and economic forces. At the same time, water resources remain vulnerable to climatic deterioration and various types of pollution . Nationwide, climate change is expected to increase the risk of water stress, with more and more regions expected to see more than 10% of their population in water shortage, and to increase the upsurge of water-associated diseases . Already, the impacts of climate change on the hydrological cycle have been felt in Côte d'Ivoire. There has been a drastic decline in the flows of the main watersheds since the rupture years, the dates of which fall within the pivotal period 1969-1971. Flow deficits vary between 30 and 60% over the entire hydrographic network .
Water quality is increasingly threatened by anthropogenic activities in Côte d'Ivoire. In recent years, Bandama, N'zi and Bia have been subject to pollution linked to gold panning, while the Abidjan aquifer is facing various threats such as saline intrusion, the decline in infiltration linked to expansive urbanization, and pollution by nitrates due to poor sanitation and poor management of solid and liquid waste . Polluted water is associated with the spread of highly communicable waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera, which account for more than 50% of adult deaths and about 80% of deaths among children under age 5 .
According to the country’s Voluntary National Review, drinking water coverage rate in Côte d'Ivoire has improved from 72% in 2019 to 76% in 2021, and rate of access to improved sanitation has increased from 40% in 2013 to 54% in 2020 . But strong disparities remain depending on the place of residence and the socio-economic level of the households. Further, in recent years, very little progress has been made in terms of household access to hygiene. This limited and highly unequal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in Côte d'Ivoire , enables disease transmission and outbreaks, causes missed workdays, prevents children from attending school and increases hospital admissions .
Côte d'Ivoire’s socio-economic dynamics in the past few decades have brought in extra demands on its water resources. Key among them are demands that emanate from agriculture, domestic and industrial uses.
Inadequate sanitation systems, municipal solid waste, and effluents from industry degrade water quality, as the country lacks basic sanitation and solid waste management infrastructure. As a result, untreated water from industry and households is discharged into urban water bodies .
Climate change is expected to further threaten the country’s water resources, through a (i) drop in surface water availability for the Bandama and Sassandra rivers, (ii) a sharp drop in groundwater load, (iii) an increase in surface water evapotranspiration (particularly in Comoé), and (iv) poor spatio-temporal distribution of water resources and increased risk of drought .
Key policies and governance approach
Water resources management in Côte d’Ivoire is the responsibility of the Ministry of Water (Ministère de l’Hydraulique, MH), created in 2018 , which carries out its programs for the extension of water supply through its operational agency, the National Drinking Water Office (Office National de l’Eau Potable, ONEP). Water production is ensured by the State of Côte d’Ivoire and distribution is carried out by the Société des Eaux de Côte d’Ivoire (SODECI) , through the longest running public-private partnership (PPP) for urban water in West Africa . SODECI, a private-public service company, is linked to the State by water and sanitation lease contracts. These contracts with the State allow SODECI to operate, maintain, and renew existing facilities. SODECI also has full responsibility for customer management .
Management of the sanitation sector is under the oversight of the Ministry of Sanitation and Public Hygiene (Ministère de l’Assainissement et de la Salubrité Publique, MINASS). A dedicated public agency (Office National de l’Assainissement et du Drainage, ONAD) was created in 2011 to foster efforts to increase the access to quality sanitation services and develop drainage and flood management for the country .
The legislative and regulatory framework of the water and sanitation sector is characterized at the national level by laws and implementing decrees, including Law No. 98-755 of 23 December 1998 on the Water Code and Law No. 96-766 of 3 October 1996 establishing the Environment Code . These codes prohibit the discharge of pollutants into the natural environment and make it mandatory to treat wastewater before it is discharged into the environment. However, while Article 69 of the Environment Code clearly states that municipalities should have controlled landfills for their municipal solid waste, nothing is explicitly provided for the management of fecal sludge .
The Water Code sets out the fundamental principles relating to the governance and management of water, water construction projects, protection of water sources, etc. and advocates the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) . The Code specifies the general rules for the conservation and distribution of water, the quality of water works and the harmonious use of scarce water resources . In the face of climate change, a revised version of the Water Code was adopted by the Council of Ministers in September 2022. This text provides for the conditions of the rational and sustainable use of water resources, improves the framework for the preservation of sites and wetlands against the effects of climate change and sets new rules for the enhancement and restoration of surface water, groundwater and territorial sea water, the quality and quantity of which are seriously impacted by the aggravation of climate change .
Additionally, Law No. 2003-208 of 7 July 2003 on the delegation and distribution of responsibilities from the State to the local authorities grants municipalities, regions, and districts specific responsibilities provided by the laws and regulations. In Title 2 of Article 10 of this law, responsibilities for water, sanitation, and electricity are delegated to the local level; however, in reality, there has been only a partial transfer of responsibilities .
Successes and remaining challenges
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has not yet reached effective implementation in Côte d’Ivoire . The main barriers that hinder implementation of IWRM include: several implementing texts for the Water Code have not yet been adopted , which prevents the creation of new structures such as the National Water Agency, basin agencies and an IWRM financing framework ; there is a lack of qualified personnel, capacity building planning, and funding for the effective implementation of IWRM across the whole national territory; and attributions between different relevant institutions are similar and overlap , which can impede effective implementation due to a lack of coordination. Further, there is also a lack of reliable and relevant information on the country’s water resources, particularly in terms of functional hydrometric networks and hydrometeorological networks .
Several implementing texts have also not yet been enacted for the law on the delegation of responsibilities to the local authorities, meaning there has been only a partial transfer of water and sanitation responsibilities to municipalities . Real political will must be applied to effectively transfer administrative authority to the local level and fully realize the intended goals of decentralization. Support is needed to effectively transfer powers to local and regional authorities including financial support (through offset credits and subsidies), human resources, and materials and equipment. Additionally, locally elected and national government officials need capacity building and training to effectively and efficiently implement WASH governance interventions. Finally, the mechanisms for mobilization of internal and external resources by municipalities need to be strengthened including promotion of increased budgets dedicated to the WASH sector .
Improving the population’s access to WASH remains constrained by insufficient resources allocated to the sector, particularly for rural areas and for the sanitation sub-sector. To achieve SDG6 (ensure access to water and sanitation for all) by 2030, annual investments in the WASH sector should correspond to approximately 7% of the total State budget. However, in 2018, the State had devoted only 1.8% of its budget to WASH .
Initiatives and Development Plans
To provide a lasting solution to the problem of access to drinking water in Côte d’Ivoire and with a view to making drinking water accessible to all and at a lower cost, the Ivorian Government has set up the ‘Water for All’ program. This commitment is materialized by the significant investments made in the drinking water sector from 2019 to 2021. Over this period, around 500 billion CFA francs have been invested through around 30 projects set up in rural and urban areas. This major investment, supported by sectoral reforms, in particular the creation of a sector dedicated to drinking water, has led to considerable achievements in terms of human hydraulic infrastructure and access to drinking water in Côte d’Ivoire .
- Adopt the various application decrees of the Water Code, including those relating to the creation of management bodies and agencies, the operationalization of the IWRM fund, the implementation of the user-payer principles, royalties and operating permits. This is necessary to define the powers of all players in the sector .
- It is recommended to set up a permanent inter-ministerial committee (Permanent Secretariat) for the effective coordination of the implementation of IWRM .
- Promote capacity building initiatives of stakeholders for the management of water resources at the national level .
- Raise the awareness of industry in order to comply with the regulations for the sustainable management of water resources .
- Strengthen technology and knowledge transfer for better water resources management .
- Update the National Action Plan for Integrated Water Resources Management (PLANGIRE) to take into account the SDGs, climate change, its impacts and the mechanisms implemented for resilient populations and ecosystems, as well as the new institutional landscape .
- Increase the budget allocated to the creation and maintenance of water works and infrastructure (drinking water and sanitation), as well as budgets allocated to the implementation of IWRM .
- Create basin authorities and increase the budget for investments in deconcentrated and decentralized services .
- Support is needed to effectively transfer powers to local and regional authorities including financial support (through offset credits and subsidies), human resources, and materials and equipment .
- Locally elected and national government officials need capacity building and training to effectively and efficiently implement WASH governance interventions .
- Improve accountability and participation at the household level: Households are the users and consumers of water and sanitation services, they should be able to participate in decision-making to improve the planning of water and sanitation services through open feedback .
- Establish monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for the “drinking water” and “sanitation” sub-sectors that can support the planning, decision-making and implementation of the various sectoral programs .
- Introduce technological innovations to anticipate and adapt to the consequences of climate change and contribute to the preservation of water resources .
- Develop and implement throughout the territory a national strategy for the preservation of water quality that takes into account all water supply chains .
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 The World Bank (2019). PROJECT PAPER ON A PROPOSED ADDITIONAL CREDIT IN THE AMOUNT OF EUR 133.8 MILLION (US$150.0 MILLION EQUIVALENT) TO THE REPUBLIC OF COTE D'IVOIRE FOR THE URBAN WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION PROJECT (FORMERLY COTE D'IVOIRE URBAN WATER SUPPLY PROJECT).
 USAID (2021). USAID WEST AFRICA MUNICIPAL WATER, SANITATION, AND HYGIENE ACTIVITY (MUNIWASH) FEASIBILITY STUDIES REPORT: Institutional and Legal Framework for Operations and Investments in the Provision of Water and Sanitation Services in Côte d’Ivoire.
 Afrik 21 (2022). Ivory Coast: Towards the revision of the Water Code in the face of climate pressure. [Online]. Available: https://www.afrik21.africa/en/ivory-coast-towards-the-revision-of-the-water-code-in-the-face-of-climate-pressure/.