Water supply and sanitation in Cuba

Water supply and sanitation in Cuba

Water supply and sanitation in Cuba is characterized by a high level of access, but at limited quality of service. A state-owned enterprise is in charge or providing services throughout the country within the country's socialist, centrally planned Cuban economic system. Aa a surprsiing exception in a Socialist country, a mixed public-private company with partial foreign ownership that provides services in parts of Havana.


In 2000 about 91% of Cubans had access to an improved source of water (95% of the urban population, but only 78% of the rural population). [ WHO/UNICEF [http://www.wssinfo.org/pdf/country/CUB_wat.pdf JMP Water Cuba] ] Unusually, access to adequate sanitation is higher than access to an improved source of water at a rate of 98% (99% of the urban population and 95% of the rural population). [ WHO/UNICEF [http://www.wssinfo.org/pdf/country/CUB_san.pdf JMP Sanitation Cuba] ]

Cuba's access to adequate sanitation thus is the second-highest in Latin America and the Caribbean after Uruguay. Access to improved water supply in Cuba, however, is the same as the average for the region. [ WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program ]

Service quality

There is no systematic information on the quality of water and sanitation services in Cuba. In some parts of the countries, such as in Santiago de Cuba, residents at times go without water for as much as 20 days. Water is not reliably chlorinated, partly due to the unavailability of chlorine. As a result, residents receive water that is not safe to drink and have to store it in their homes, which further increases the risk of contamination. Some households have to resort sand filters with the help of foreign aid to treat water in their homes. [ IDRC, Coping with water crisis in Cuba [http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-5496-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html IDRC] ]

In 2000 between 42,000 and 90,000 residents of Havana, according to various sources quoted in the reference below, had to receive water in tanker trucks, because the antiquated water supply system was unable to provide them with water. Since then, the system has been repaired and this number has been considerably reduced. [ [ IADB] and [http://www.tierramerica.net/2003/0302/noticias4.shtml Tierramérica] ]

According to a report by the “Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba” to the US President there are only five wastewater treatment plants in Cuba that are “inoperative”, providing “some degree of treatment” to only four percent of collected wastewater, the remainder being discharged without treatment. [ [http://www.cafc.gov/cafc/rpt/2006/68097.htm CAFC] ]

Responsibility for water supply and sanitation

National Water Resources Institute

The National Water Resources Institute (Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidraulicos, INRH) is in charge of “directing, executing and controlling the application” of the government’s water resources activities. In addition to its attributions in water resources management, it is also in charge of setting norms for and controlling activities in water supply and sanitation. De facto it also provides water supply and sanitation services through “enterprises” that are part of the INRH group. INRH also operates 241 dams and 175 small hydropower plants with an installed total capacity of 14 MW.

INRH proposes water and sanitation policies to the Cabinet. Ministries involved in the sector include the Ministry of Economy and Planning (investment planning), the Ministry of Health (monitoring water and wastewater quality), the Ministry of Financing and Prices (setting of recurrent cost budgets and tariffs) and the Ministry of Construction (construction of infrastructure through water and sanitation construction brigades). [ [http://www.bvsde.paho.org/eswww/eva2000/cuba/informe/inf-02.htm PAHO] ]

INRH was created in 1989, taking the place of an entity bearing the same name that was created in 1962. In 2000 it was restructured to reflect a focus on “business management”, which involved the creation of business units. The INRH group now includes 4 enterprise groupings and 5 independent enterprises. One of the enterprise groupings covers 19 regional water and sanitation companies. Another one includes a range of construction companies, and one groups engineering design companies. All these “enterprises” are state-owned enterprises within the socialist, centrally planned Cuban economic system.

Local government

Service provision is the responsibility of the country's 14 provinces and 140 municipalities through their respective water and sanitation directorates, except in the case of 12 municipalities in Habana. [ [http://www.bvsde.paho.org/eswww/eva2000/cuba/informe/inf-02.htm PAHO] ] The capital Havana is administratively divided in 15 municipalities, but has a single mayor.

There are 3,220 rural water systems in Cuba. [ [http://www.tierramerica.net/2003/0302/noticias4.shtml Tierramérica] ]

Private sector participation: Aguas de la Habana

Interestingly, one of the "independent enterprises" in the INRH group actually is a mixed public-private company with partial foreign ownerhsip from the Spanish company Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar). The company, called the Aguas de la Habana, provides water and sanitation services in 12 of the capital's 15 municipalities under a 25-year contract signed in 2000, while the infrastructure remain publicly owned. In addition of operating and maintaining the systems, it also carries out engineering studies and executes works. The company's annual billing is US$ 9m for about 115 million cubic meters of water it delivers to its customers. [ [http://www.finanzas.com/id.3963754/noticias/noticia.htm Agbar] ]


Non revenue water in Havana, where half of the 330 million cubic meters supplied are unaccounted for, has been estimated at 50%. [ [http://www.finanzas.com/id.3963754/noticias/noticia.htm Finanzas 2002] ] This is slightly higher than the Latin American average of 40% and about twice as high as non-revenue water in many developed countries.


In Havana the residential water tariffs is fixed at 1 Peso (US$ 0.04) per cubic meter, one of the lowest water tariffs in Latin America. However, hotels and embassies are billed at 1 US$ per cubic meter. [ [http://www.finanzas.com/id.3963754/noticias/noticia.htm Agbar] ] Until 1997 water there was no water tariff at all. [ [http://www.tierramerica.net/2003/0302/noticias4.shtml Tierramérica 2003] ]



[http://www.bvsde.paho.org/eswww/eva2000/cuba/informe.html Pan-American Health Organization]

External links

[http://www.hidro.cu/index.htm INRH]

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