Despite having abundant water resources, access to water is an issue in many areas of Honduras.

Households in the lowest quintile have limited access to drinking water and sanitation services. In 2013, 11.5% of the country’s households did not have water supply services, 22.5% had sanitation problems, and 4.7% had to make use of unsafe water sources such as springs, rivers, or streams. The percentage of households with access to at least a basic water service for human consumption improved from 85.8% in 2015 to 88.4% in 2019, while the percentage with access to adequate basic sanitation remained at approximately 89% over the last five years. There are wide differences between rural and urban areas.

Surface water accounts for 90% of the country’s water supply, but water quality is affected by high levels of deforestation and pollution from agricultural runoff and mining operations. Groundwater is an important source as well, used by communities in the interior highlands and coastal urban towns. Unregulated groundwater use risks salinization of aquifers. Pollution control measures are generally limited and ineffective.

An analysis carried out by IHCIT – UNAH in 2011 showed that 19% of the country is under water scarcity condition, 5% has abundance of water resources, and 76% has an average level of water availability. Specifically, ten departments were identified with water scarcity: Valle (64.18%), El Paraíso (43.84%), Cortés (39.07), Francisco Morazán (30.18%), Olancho (29.39%), Yoro (27.41%), Comayagua (23.49%), Santa Bárbara (19.04), Copán (18.83%) and Choluteca (17.36%). Four departments had an acceptable percentage of their territory in areas of abundance of water: Lempira (20.36%), Colón (20.15%), Atlántida (16.31%) and Ocotepeque (12.79%).

The diagnosis also showed that Honduras has experienced drought events of great magnitude and intensity, during the last two decades, particularly in 2002-2003, 2009-2010, 2014-2015, and 2018-2019. As a result, there has been significant water losses in 146 municipalities of 13 departments, affecting some 1,480,000 individuals. About 65% of households in the Dry Corridor area live below the poverty line, and 48% live in extreme poverty with high rates of malnutrition, without access to opportunities for socioeconomic development and sustainable services and adequate public health and education.


The 24 main basins of Honduras receive as little as 1,000 mm of rain in the central zone to over 2,500 mm per year in the Atlantic Coast zone. About 87% of the surface water that the basins collect drains into the Caribbean Sea and the remaining 13% into the Pacific Ocean, with an average discharge of 92,813 million m³ of water in a normal year, equivalent to a countrywide surface water potential of 1,542 m³/s. About 13.5 m³/s of that total is used for domestic consumption and industry, 75 m³/s for irrigation, and 242 m³/s for electricity generation. No accurate estimate of the volume of groundwater is available. However, it is thought that it abounds in the lowlands of the north and south of the country.

The threats and risks that water resources face in the country are extensive and include accelerated deforestation, forest fires, expansion of the agricultural frontier, inappropriate land use, overgrazing, and inadequate construction of rural roads and highways. Most wells close to mangroves and beaches in densely populated coastal areas are affected by saline intrusion, due to overexploitation and the consequent lowering of the water table.


Key policies and governance approach

Honduras' water policy and regulatory framework mainly include the 2008 National Water Policy, the 2003 Framework Law for the Water and Sanitation Sector, and the 2009 General Water Law.

Dedicated micro-watersheds are an important instrument for the conservation and management of hydrographic basins. The main purpose of dedicated micro-watersheds is to protect and improve water production, and they hold forested areas. There were a total of 848 dedicated micro-watersheds, covering a total of 348,586.65 ha, as of 2016. The process of declaring micro-basins is constant and dynamic, due to the population's need for water resources.



Although many elements of water resources management are in place, insufficient technical and financial capacities limit their effective implementation.

The country fared rather poorly in its latest progress report on SDG indicator 6.5.1the degree of implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). It scored below the regional average in almost all the indicators of the four dimensions of IWRM, namely, enabling environment, management instruments, financing, and institutions and participation. Very little progress in implementation was attained from the 2017 report and the latest one in 2020 and it remained at a Low level. The country is currently not on track to reach Target 6.5.


Honduras has significant water resources, sufficient to meet all the population's needs for use and production. Issues of inadequate supply (quality and quantity) are due, to a greater extent, to inefficient resource management and limited governance capacities. 



[2] Guillen, R. 2015, Situación de los Recursos Hídricos en Centroamérica.