Water Pollution in El Salvador. Getting Worse Every Year

By Eddie Galdamez  |  Aug 25th, 2021
Water Pollution in El Salvador
Water Pollution in El Salvador. Photo by @MedioAmbienteSV

The water pollution in El Salvador is getting worse every year. A 2020 report by the Salvadoran Ministry of the Environment revealed that 71% of Salvadoran river waters are qualified as bad, and 7.4% as poor. The country has less drinkable water due to the contamination of rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, and wells.

Every year more Salvadorans are getting sick due to drinking non-potable water. Also, in some Salvadoran communities, there is no water available at all.

A 2016 report by the United Nations stated that in El Salvador, more than 600 thousand people do not have access to any type of drinking water and sanitation service, not even through the collection of rainwater. The report also asserted that more than a million people have only access to inadequate water services.

Water Pollution in El Salvador
Trash at a local beach. Photo by @lopezfernando

Suppose the country doesn’t start making changes protecting this vital resource. In that case, the water pollution problem will get to critical levels never seen before.

The Salvadoran water crisis has been more visible during the COVID-19 pandemic. During these difficult times, thousands of Salvadorans are dealing with COVID-19 with barely any water or no water at all.

How Bad is the Water Quality in El Salvador?

The water quality in El Salvador is inadequate, especially in some urban areas. Water quality is an ongoing concern for this small but densely populated country.

A large percentage of the country’s water supply is contaminated and deemed unsafe to drink by international standards.

Families all over the country that can afford it buy bottled water to drink, which is expensive. On the other hand, people who can’t afford bottled water have to take their chances and drink tap water or water from wells and rivers.

People who have never been to El Salvador and plan to visit ask; Is the water safe to drink in El Salvador? The short answer is not really. Foreigners visiting El Salvador are advised to use bottled water as much as possible.

Lempa River El Salvador
El Salvador lempa River

Why is the Water Pollution in El Salvador that Bad?

The water pollution problem in El Salvador is a combination of many factors, such as climate change and deforestation. Additionally, the Salvadoran culture and the government have played a significant role in creating this problem.

Climate Change

Climate change has played a significant role in the quality of water problem in the country. Deforestation, burning fossil fuels, and lack of regulations have contributed to El Salvador’s climate change; this is a problem that also affects the quality of air in El Salvador.

The country’s climate changes have caused temperatures to rise and disrupt the climate balance. Additionally, climate change has created droughts in parts of the country, which reduces the earth’s ability to absorb water.

El Salvador’s climate change is something that the country has to deal with right away as it affects the country’s rainfall. Suppose it rains less due to the changes in weather patterns. In that case, it will affect the overall quality of the country’s water supply.

Deforestation and Water Pollution

The increased deforestation the country has incurred over the last 30 years has contributed to the water pollution problem the nation has right now. It has accelerated soil erosion, which in turn has affected the water sources that maintain our rivers, lakes, and wells.

The country’s water sources have decreased; therefore, it has affected the water quality and the amount of water available for consumption.

Earth law center published an article in 2019, saying the following about El Salvador.

“While the people of El Salvador have been doing well in recent decades, the forests have not. El Salvador is the second most deforested country in Latin America after Haiti. Almost 85 percent of its forested cover has disappeared since the 1960s, leaving about 5 percent of the land area forested. Less than 6,000 hectares are classified as primary forests.”

In any case, El Salvador’s deforestation has already affected the nation’s water sources and supply. Furthermore, a large portion of the territory is not even suitable for food cultivation anymore.

Salvadoran Culture

Salvadorans have contributed and continue to contribute to the water pollution problem. Now it is necessary to mention that not all Salvadorans contribute to this issue. There are plenty of people in the country who focuses on protecting the environment and improving water quality.

Disposing trash and cutting down trees are two notable factors that many people do that affect pollution and its water quality.

Disposing of Trash

The trash problem in El Salvador has a significant effect on the nation’s water supply and quality. Many people in El Salvador do not care about properly disposing of trash; evidence of this cultural problem is visible on public roads and popular vacation spots.

If you have been on any urban or rural road in El Salvador, you will notice thrash almost everywhere. Many people just throw trash in the streets without regard or thinking of its consequences on the country’s environment.

Rivers, lakes, and the ocean are top destinations for locals to relax and have fun during national holidays. However, many people, who visit these spots, don’t pick up after themselves; they leave the vacation areas filled with garbage.

This trash left behind ends polluting rivers, lakes, mountains, and the ocean. People who spend time at either the beach, lake, or river during national holidays can attest to how dirty these spots are at the end of the day.

People toss the garbage in the ground without regard for the implications of doing so. Improperly disposing of trash is a cultural problem that needs to be corrected.

Cutting Down Trees

Cutting down trees is an issue that leads to deforestation, which impacts climate change that affects the country’s water quality. The cutting of trees is a problem in both urban and rural areas of the country.

Some individuals cut down trees to use as burning wood for cooking or construction; others do it to clear the land and use the space for other purposes.

The more significant problem regarding trees is the lack of governmental oversight, allowing individuals and companies to cut down trees on a large scale with no concern for the environment.

As Salvadorans, we need to change the cultural part that drives us to be okay with just throwing trash everywhere. Also, we need to help the environment by not cutting down trees unnecessarily and plating more.

Water pollution in El Salvador
Trash accumulation at a small river.

The Salvadoran Government

The Salvadoran government, both at the national and local level, has contributed to water pollution. Regulations and disposal of waste are the main issues that the government has failed to control.

Creating and enforcing regulations that protect the environment is something that the government has failed to do in the past. The government has given companies and individuals permission to exploit natural resources that include cutting down trees with soft regulations and almost no oversight.

Also, properly disposing of the waste is another important part that the government has failed to get under control. An example of this is all the trash we see in urban areas. If not pick up and dispose of in the right location, this garbage will end up in our rivers and streams; therefore, contaminating the water.

A combination of all four factors, cultural habits, the government, deforestation, and climate change, has gotten the water pollution problem up to this point. We definitely need to find a way to reverse this water pollution problem in El Salvador as soon as possible.

ANDA El Salvador
Photo by ANDA

How can we Solve the Water Crisis in El Salvador?

Solving the Salvadoran water problem is not going to be easy. We need to get involved and look to do our part to help fix the problem. We, as Salvadorans, can’t say that this is an issue the government needs to correct or that it is not our problem.

All people living in El Salvador, locals, and foreigners, have to do their part to protect the environment, which will improve the water quality.

I am not claiming that I have the solution to the water pollution problem; nonetheless, there are a few things that we can do right away. For example, we can recycle, stop throwing trash on the streets, and pressure the local government to take action on the matter.

Let’s take personal accountability and do the little things that we can. It will help the environment and improve the quality of water.

Water Pollution in El Salvador

The water crisis in El Salvador is something that we need to deal with right away. We can’t wait any longer as the water pollution in El Salvador gets worse every year.

El Salvador is a beautiful country with many natural resources; these natural resources are in danger due to pollution.

If we do our part, we can definitely protect our lakes, rivers, oceans, and mountains. These natural resources are the ones that provide us with clean water. Let’s put an effort and look for a way to deal with this problem that affects all of us!


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