Innovative water solutions for underprivileged districts

Buenos Aires, Argentina


Since securing the contract for the Buenos Aires concession in 1993, Aguas Argentinas (Ondeo Services, formerly Suez-Lyonnaise des Eaux) has implemented several innovative solutions in the underprivileged districts of the megalopolis.


At the time of this project (2001), the city's population exceeded 11.5 million. Three million of these lived in the underprivileged districts and had a monthly income per household of less than US$500 per month. More than 300,000 lived in the villas miserias - spontaneous and illegal settlement areas. At the beginning of the concession, an estimated 500,000 people were connected fraudulently to the network, with low-quality services. The underprivileged districts accounted for a potential 15% of Aguas Argentinas' customers.


In 1993, 30% of the population in Buenos Aires was not served with drinking water and 42% had no sanitation facilities. Between 1993 and 2001, Aguas Argentinas expanded the delivery of water services to more than 1.5 million people and sanitation to 800,000.


In order to implement original financial and institutional solutions to issues of water and sanitation access, NGOs were requested to facilitate dialogue between Aguas Argentinas, public institutions and the communities. Between 1997 and 1999, more than 200,000 low-income inhabitants became connected to the drinking water network.


BPD became involved in a similar project in the city, to find and implement sustainable solutions to supply drinking water and sanitation services to low-income areas through the following:


  • A pilot programme to supply water to 200,000 people
  • A study of innovative solutions for the provision of sanitation services
  • Organising a sustainable commercial and technical relationship between these clients and the water company.


In the project, municipal and provincial government worked in partnership with Aguas Argentinas and Ondeo Services (private sector); the International Institute for Environment and Development - America Latina (IIED-AL); FundaciĆ³n Riachuelo; and area committees of the community/NGO sector.  The regulatory agency, ETOSS, was also a project partner.


Buenos Aires study visit report


This document reviews the findings from the Buenos Aires Action Learning Programme, which was one of the first activities undertaken by BPD Water and Sanitation. This programme brought together representatives from several of the projects to gain an understanding of the innovative approaches being used by the project partners in poor communities in Buenos Aires.