Skip to main content

Adapting Community-Based Water Supply in Central America to a Changing Climate

In Central America, nearly 24,000 community-based organizations supply drinking water to rural and peri-urban residents. By delivering potable water, these organizations improve the health and welfare of millions, and play a key role in local economic development. Climate change in the region is resulting in higher temperatures and longer periods of drought. Cities are growing rapidly, increasing the demand for water. These changes decrease the ability of community-level water supply organizations to meet demand because stable water sources are threatened. This research project will study the effects of climate change on water availability in Central America. Researchers will investigate how community-based water organizations in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica are adapting to the changes. They will also: -assess how water suppliers can adapt their practices to safeguard water -inform climate change adaptation policies for community-based water supply organizations -map the impact of climate change to define key areas of study at the regional level -identify and evaluate the factors that help these organizations adapt to extreme precipitation and droughts -assess the incentives and restrictions that influence decisions to invest in climate change adaptation actions -develop design guidelines and criteria to help prioritize climate change adaptation investments -build local capacities through training courses -disseminate results at the local, national, and international levels. This research will help support community-based drinking water organizations, which are generally small, nimble, and able to respond to priority needs more effectively than larger utilities in Central America. Case analysis from Costa Rica will be used to assess useful adaptation options. Using this analysis as a base, the team will conduct a survey of households and water providers from all three countries and focus on assessing the costs and benefits of different adaptation measures. The results are expected to help improve decision-making and better guide private and public adaptation investments to secure water supply for rural and peri-urban residents.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
36 months
IDRC Officer
Walter Ubal
Total Funding
CA$ 1,477,900.00
Costa Rica
Climate Change
Institution Country
Costa Rica
Project Leader
Dr. Francisco Alpizar
Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza/Tropical Agriculture Research and Higher Education Center


Future climate change scenarios in Central America at high spatial resolution

Future climate change scenarios in Central America at high spatial resolution


The objective of this work is to assess the downscaling projections of climate change over Central America at 8-km resolution using the Eta Regional Climate Model, driven by the HadGEM2-ES simulations of RCP4.5 emission scenario. The narrow characteristic of continent supports the use of numerical simulations at very high-horizontal resolution. Prior to assessing climate change, the 30-year baseline period 1961–1990 is evaluated against different sources of observations of precipitation and temperature. The mean
seasonal precipitation and temperature distribution show reasonable agreement with observations. Spatial correlation of the Eta, 8-km resolution, simulations against observations show clear advantage over the driver coarse global model simulations. Seasonal cycle of precipitation confirms the added value of the Eta at 8-km over coarser resolution simulations. The Eta simulations show a systematic cold bias in the region. Climate features of the Mid-Summer Drought and the Caribbean Low-Level Jet are well simulated by the Eta model at 8-km resolution. The assessment of the future climate change is based on the 30-year period 2021–2050, under RCP4.5 scenario. Precipitation is generally reduced, in particular during the JJA and SON, the rainy season. Warming is expected over the region, but stronger in the northern portion of the continent. The Mid-Summer Drought may develop in regions that do not occur during the baseline period, and where it occurs the strength may increase in the future scenario. The Caribbean Low-Level Jet shows little change in the future. Extreme temperatures have positive trend within the period 2021–2050, whereas extreme precipitation, measured by R50mm and R90p, shows positive trend in the eastern coast, around Costa Rica, and negative trends in the northern part of the continent. Negative trend in the duration of dry spell, which is an estimate based on evapotranspiration, is projected in most part of the continent. Annual mean water excess has negative trends in most part of the continent, which suggests decreasing water availability in the future scenario.

Author(s): Imbach, Pablo, Chou, Sin Chan, Lyra, André, Rodrigues, Daniela, Rodriguez, Daniel, Latinovic, Dragan, Siqueira, Gracielle, Silva, Adan, Garofolo, Lucas, Georgiou, Selena

Download PDF

Language: English