Latin America and Caribbean: Economics of Sanitation Initiative


View: Infographic: What's a Toilet Worth in Nicaragua?


The Economics of Sanitation Initiative (ESI) is a multi-country initiative of the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). ESI was launched in 2007 as a response by WSP to address major gaps in evidence among developing countries on the economic aspects of sanitation. The study aims to provide evidence that supports sanitation advocacy, elevates the profile of sanitation, and acts as an effective tool to convince governments to take action.

In Latin America, 117 million people remain without access to improved sanitation; 22 million people from 19 countries still practice open defecation, and only 20% of wastewater is treated.

Nicaragua, the first Latin American country to join ESI, has a population of 5.74 million inhabitants, of which almost half live without access to improved sanitation.  In rural areas, the coverage is merely 37%, and 11% still practice open defecation. These ratios place Nicaragua among the top three Latin American countries with the lowest access in the region.


Phase 1

Phase 1 of ESI assesses the economic losses in health, tourism, time wasted, and water resources caused by the lack of sanitation facilities. The study uses a modeling approach and draws on routine data sources such as national surveys as well as published studies and consultations from experts. It presents the impacts in units and converts these into monetary equivalents using conventional economic valuation techniques. 

Phase 2:  Expected in 2014


Results of Economics of Sanitation Initiative


Phase 1: Key Findings

  • If Nicaragua invested in sanitation and hygiene, savings could have reached US$80 million.
  • The economic losses of households practicing open defecation or using shared toilets are US$8.7 million per year.

Full Report (English | Spanish)