Over the next several posts, I plan to look at the issues involved in providing a safe and dependable drinking water supply in El Salvador. This topic provokes regular protests in the streets of the country, raises issues of government corruption and privatization of important resources, and generates strong feelings on all sides.
To start, it is important to have a background understanding of the problems, and an excellent resource I have found is the Wikipedia article on Water supply and sanitation in El Salvador. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Access. Access to water and sanitation in El Salvador remains low by regional standards. Access to safe water stood at 84 percent in 2004 and access to adequate sanitation at 62 percent. Access is particularly low in rural areas, where about 36 percent of the population lives. It stands at 70% for safe water and 39 percent for adequate sanitation. (for water access data see  and for sanitation access data see )
Productivity and public health impact of lack of access to water supply and sanitation. The lack of access to water impacts not only the quality of life of the poor, but also productivity and health. According to a survey carried out in 2001 by the Salvadoran think thank FUSADES  the rural poor in particular spend a significant share of their productive time collecting water. Families without household access to water spent on average 8.5 percent of their productive time fetching water, while even those with household access spent 4.9 percent of their productive time fetching water. For structural poor the difference was much higher with 13.6 percent and 7.1 percent respectively.
A lack of access to water and sanitation in rural areas has a demonstrably adverse effect on infant mortality, child mortality and stunting. The infant mortality rate among households without a connection in their dwelling is 40 per 1,000 births, compared to 30 for households with a connection. Similarly, the infant mortality rate among households without a toilet is 37, compared to 30 for households with toilets.
Service quality. Water supply in most localities served by ANDA is intermittent, varying from 16 hours per day in some areas to less than 4 hours per day or even once every four days, according to a Demographic and Health Survey (called FESAL by its Spanish acronym) carried out in 2002.  Most localities, however, seem to receive water at least once a day. The microbiological quality of water is insufficient....(more)