Access to safe drinking water in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Olivera Tanackovic / SNV

In Bosnia & Herzegovina access to safe drinking water is much worse than one might expect from a country on its way to EU membership. Bosnia & Herzegovina faces the challenge to focus on social and economic development while preventing the further degradation of its ecosystems.

Safe, efficient and reliable water supply for all citizens is a basic precondition for sustainable development. In order to provide a sustainable water supply system and to ensure long-term reliability of water service delivery, there is a clear need for further development of the water authorities in Bosnia & Herzegovina at all levels. They face numerous challenges, both institutional and legislative, including a lack of knowledge of public water awareness, financial constraints, inadequate capacities of local water authorities, obsolete and insufficiently maintained infrastructure and unreliable water data.

Fifty five percent of the population in Bosnia & Herzegovina is connected to public/municipal water utilities and that is well bellow the EU ninety percent average. Approximately ninety percent of the urban population is connected to the public water supply systems while in rural areas that figure is significantly smaller. Drinking water supply in terms of quantity and quality is only satisfactory in urban areas, where its supply is under the authority of public water supply companies.

Available data regarding the present state of drinking water systems only reflect urban areas. There is no cadastre of drinking water resources and/or drinking water pipelines/systems in the rural areas. Drinking water pipelines in rural area are mainly built by local people; they have never been incorporated into wider drinking water systems and the rural population still largely depends on its own local sources whit small water supply systems. The communities are responsible for maintenance, management and monitoring of their drinking water systems. There is no information available regarding the water quality, nor for monitoring and protection of water resources. This lack of data hinders efforts to achieve improved water supply in rural areas.

This indicates that major challenges exist with regard to safe drinking water supply in the rural areas. An existing gap in the safe supply between urban and rural areas contributes to a disadvantaged position of the rural people and lessens potential for poverty reduction and overall rural development.

As water sustains life and is a basic human right, it is of crucial importance to provide access to water for all and to lay a foundation for sustainable but effective management of drinking water.

In order to overcome all these challenges, municipal water authorities in Bosnia & Herzegovina require wide-ranging and systematic support. This case study summarizes SNV's intervention in regard to the registration of rural water supply systems in Travnik municipality, Mid Bosnia Canton.

Year of publication: 
SNV Case story collection
Themes and sectors: 
Health sector
Themes and sectors: 
Water supply
Case story length: 
4 pages

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