Uruguay makes progress on the integrated management of water resources in the basin that supplies 60% of the country's water supply

Less than a year after the start of its implementation, the EUROCLIMA+ project 'Adaptation in Action - Santa Lucia Basin' presents its main actions and results so far.

22 March 2022. Montevideo, Uruguay. Uruguay has a vast hydrographic network, which for many years has provided access to safe, quality water to practically 100 per cent of the population. Unlike in many countries, Uruguayans have become accustomed to having drinking water just by turning on the tap.

However, variations in rainfall and flow patterns, accentuated by climate change, and the intensification of land use, have compromised the supply of drinking water to a population that represents 60 per cent of the country's total and which depends on the Santa Lucía river basin for its water supply.

In addition to the issue of access to water, there is also the occurrence of extreme events, such as floods or droughts, which have an enormous impact on the lives of the people living in some localities of the basin.

Within this framework, the EUROCLIMA+ project “Adaptation in Action –Santa Lucía Basin” was created with the aim of strengthening resilience to the impacts of climate variability to ensure the quantity and quality of the drinking water source, advancing in the integrated management of water resources. To this end, it is proposed to adopt technology and modelling for integrated water management and to strengthen governance to support decision-making and the formulation of public policies, from a human rights perspective that includes gender equity.

It is important to highlight that Uruguay has already been working with an integrated and participatory water management approach in the framework of the National Water Policy (2009) and the National Water Plan (2017). The "Adaptation in Action - Santa Lucía Basin" project is therefore an opportunity to deepen and strengthen the processes of integrated water resources management, while incorporating aspects on which the country had not yet been able to advance.

Since June 2020, when the project was launched, several actions have been developed to meet the defined objectives.

In the process of making the invisible visible 

In particular, great progress was made in the development of a pilot project for the determination of protection perimeters of water supply wells for urban populations. This pilot is being developed in seven localities in the department of San José, whose population draws groundwater from the Raigón Aquifer System through catchment wells.

Ninety percent of the population living in these localities, at least 42,700 people (according to the 2011 Census), is supplied by groundwater, which is managed by Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE), the state-owned company in charge of supplying drinking water to the entire population.

At the time, the survey was carried out in the 7 localities together with technicians from the National Water Directorate, the Regional Centre for Groundwater Management (CeReGAS), the Municipality of San José, OSE, and data analysis is underway. At a later stage, activities will be co-organised with the local municipalities to disseminate the results and exchange best practices with the local stakeholders involved.  

Due to the lack of standards or regulations on matters of perimeter protection measures for groundwater extraction wells, this pilot project constitutes a fundamental contribution, the results of which could be included in local plans and contribute to the management of water resources in other basins.

Ultimately, this action contributes to addressing a theme that is on the agenda this year through World Water Day: "Groundwater: Making the invisible visible", in order to make visible its relevance for life and the need to protect it from overexploitation and pollution.

Further progress towards integrated water resources management

Over the last few months, and accompanied by numerous organisations that are strategic partners in this project, an interesting path towards integrated water resources management has been taken.

The project was publicly launched, meetings were held with strategic partners, basin commission meetings were held and working groups were proposed to address specific issues that are already beginning to meet, and a workshop was held with the Global Water Partnership South America to assess the degree of implementation of SDG 6.5.1, among other actions.

In addition, with regard to the adoption of an early warning system for water quantity and quality, work is underway to define the scope, functionality, architecture design and base configuration of the hydrological, water management and water quality models for the Santa Lucía river basin. This process also involves institutions that will be users and beneficiaries of these tools.

Less than a year after its implementation began, the project has made progress in several areas, but there are still many challenges ahead. The involvement of various stakeholders, the strengthening of the basin commission, and work on communication and awareness-raising are key to the sustainability of this process, which is expected to become a model to be replicated in other basins within the country and beyond.

The Adaptation in Action - Santa Lucia Basin project is implemented by the Ministry of Environment, through Dinagua, and is financed by EUROCLIMA+, as part of the Urban Water sector, implemented by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation - AECID and the French Development Agency - AFD.

EUROCLIMA+ sector Water management with an urban resilience perspective

Through this sector of the EUROCLIMA+ programme implemented by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the French Development Agency (AFD), a total of seven projects will be implemented. For more information on each project, please visit:


EUROCLIMA+ is a programme funded by the European Union and co-financed by the German federal government through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), as well as by the governments of France and Spain through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation. 

The Programme's mission is to reduce the impact of climate change and its effects in 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, promoting mitigation, adaptation, resilience and climate investment. It is implemented according to the "Spirit of Team Europe" under the synergistic work of seven agencies: the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the French Development Agency (AFD), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Expertise France (EF), the International and Ibero-America Foundation for Administration and Public Policy (FIIAPP), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) GmbH, and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).