Access to water and sanitation services is still limited for a large part of the Paraguayan population, and regional disparities in the quality and distribution of these services persist. The rapid urbanisation process has increased pressure in Asunción and medium-sized cities, and water shortages and poor water quality are major concerns.
Access to improved water sources increased by 16.2% to 97.3% during the 2014–2016 period, thanks to a better coverage in urban areas (from 68.9% to 93.5%). A survey by ESSAP showed that a large part of the piping infrastructure is in critical condition and about 300,000 m of piping need to be replaced to optimize the service. Thus, losses of drinking water are around 47%, due to the poor condition of the distribution network.
Access to improved sanitation services increased from 77.2% to 88.2% between 2004–08 and 2014–16, thanks to a significant expansion of coverage in rural areas, where access increased from 61.8% to 77.5%.
Large disparities between regions of the country exist. The Cordillera and Misiones Departments of have 100% coverage in piped drinking water service, while the Boquerón Department has only 9% coverage. Asunción enjoys the highest coverage (18.7%) of sanitary sewerage services, followed by the Ñeembucú, Amambay, Itapúa, and Caaguazú departments, with about 10%, and Guairá with 8%; coverage is less than 5% in the rest of the country.
Wastewater collection is highly insufficient. Only 12.3% of the country’s households have access to sanitary sewerage systems. The low coverage of sanitary sewerage is a critical problem in the Asunción metropolitan area, where only 33% of the population has access to this service.
Wastewater treatment is virtually non-existent. Only 2% of the wastewater collected countrywide is treated before being discharged into receiving waterbodies. Only 11% of the sewage collected in the Asunción metropolitan area is treated prior to being discharged into the Paraguay River in which 2.9 million cubic metres of untreated wastewater are discharged every day.
Untreated wastewater infiltrates shallow aquifers (those that many families use for water supply) or is directly discharged into the streets, seriously affecting the environment and the health of the population.
Deficiencies in the provision and infrastructure for water and sanitation services are related to investment gaps and institutional and regulatory weaknesses.
Investment needs in physical infrastructure exceed 70% of the 2017 GDP. Public agencies responsible for executing infrastructure projects face institutional and governance challenges that result in low levels of efficiency. Those institutional challenges stem from the low capacity of the sector’s lead agency and regulatory entity for planning and coordination, as well as the great fragmentation of service providers, high levels of arrears, and outdated rates. This, in turn, hampers the efficient management of water resources, financial sustainability, and the quality of services provided.
Key policies and governance approach
The Law on Water Resources is the principal instrument governing water use and management in Paraguay. As mandated by the Law on Water Resources, the National Water Authority (ANA) is the governing body and highest technical authority in matters of water use and management. The National Water Resources Management System includes the relevant regulatory instruments.
The Bureau of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DAPSAN) of the Ministry of Public Works is responsible for designing policies for the development of drinking water and sanitation systems. DAPSAN has adopted its first ever national plan, which outlines a roadmap for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The National Drinking Water and Sanitation Plan (2018-2030) identifies investment requirements equivalent to 15.3% of GDP. Major investments include the provision of drinking water and sanitary sewer systems in districts of the department of Alto Paraná and in the metropolitan area of Asunción, as well as a comprehensive cleanup of the Ypacaraí lake watershed.
Regulation of water services is the responsibility of ERSSAN.
There are 4,400 providers of water and sanitation services, including the Empresa de Servicios Sanitarios de Paraguay (ESSAP), which serves the main localities of the country; 2,500 Juntas de Saneamiento (“sanitation boards”), which service localities with fewer than 10,000 people; and private providers that serve zones not covered by ESSAP and the boards.
Initiatives and Development Plans
The Government of Paraguay secured a US$ 110 million loan for the construction of three wastewater treatment plants, and it continues implementing the Asunción Metropolitan Area Sewerage Masterplan.
The Ministry of Public Works and Communications expects a US$160 million financing to be approved in March 2022 for drinking water and sanitation works in Mariano Roque Alonso district in the Central department.
The Government of Paraguay, through ESSAP and other agencies, is implementing a Water and Sanitation Sector Modernization Project (PMSAS) with support from the World Bank. One of the project’s components aims to improve the drinking water supply service and increase access to sewerage services in the Metropolitan Area of Asunción.
Goals and Ambitions
Paraguay has begun delineating the steps necessary to achieve universal, equitable, and sustainable water and sanitation services throughout the country. Developing planning instruments and strengthening key sector institutions have allowed Paraguay to provide access to new households, improve service delivery, and increase sustainability.
Strategy 1.4 Suitable and sustainable habitats of Paraguay’s National Development Plan aims to improve household and habitat conditions as well as access to basic services such as water supply, sanitation, air quality, soil quality, and solid waste management. Goals include attaining universal access to drinking water and improved sanitation services by 2030.
- Governance of the WASH sector needs to be fortified, mainly by re-establishing the sector's leadership, defining clear roles and functions of the actors, increasing technical capacities and institutional human resources, and increasing the efficiency of investments.
- Financing the large investments needed for improving and expanding the infrastructure for wastewater collection and treatment to meet the current and future demand will be challenging, given the limited resources and capacities available.
 ANÁLISIS COMÚN DE PAÍS DE LAS NACIONES UNIDAS EN PARAGUAY (2019).