What is Bolivia’s Everyday Water War?

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish, Italian, German

What you are about to see.

Bolivia’s Everyday Water War is an interactive documentary that follows the Bolivians’ everyday struggle, reviews Bolivia’s history, assesses the international aid in the recent years and analyses government policies and their consequences on water access and sanitation in the Andean country.

In September 2012, president Evo Morales announced that Bolivia would meet the Millenium Development Goals targets related to drinking water access. However, according to the reports jointly made by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, drinking water access in rural areas barely exceeds 72 per cent and countryside households with advanced sanitation system still remain a minority.

 Indigenous communities, working-class neighbourhoods, and sometimes even whole cities, tired of waiting, started to organise themselves to develop their own water distribution systems. This new systems were created as alternatives to private and State models – and in some cases, with help from international development cooperation.

 In an hour-length footage and with the use of charts and animations, we join activist Marcela Olivera in a journey through the scars of Cochabamba’s side of the Water War; José Barros, member of Plan 3000 cooperative, guides us along one of Santa Cruz most notorious neighbourhoods; and we also experience life without drinking water with Jacinto Sirpa, Uma Mallku’s leader of an Altiplano Aymara community located on the outskirts of La Paz. We also meet politics, public workers, aid workers, engineers, academicians and neighbours from all the country that lend their voices to help turning water into a resource accessible to all.

 Bolivia’s Everyday Water War is funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, through Journalism Grants, whose grant was managed by the European Journalism Centre and provided through a public tendering process. Neither of these organizations have influenced the editorial decision-making of the project.

Who are we?

Behind this project there is a willing team of journalists, photographers, video-reporters, graphic designers, ‘translators’, musicians, social workers, analysts, IT experts and ninjas from both sides of the Atlantic. Felix, Andrea, Genciano, Michele, Celia, Alessio, Diego, Francesca and Javier have built up, brick by brick, Bolivia’s Everyday Water War.


Where have we done this project?

Our team, a video-reporter, a writer and a photojournalist from Italy, Germany and Spain (just like in the best jokes) started investigating about Bolivia’s access to water and sanitation. Before we made the leap over the Atlantic, a groundbreaking team of journalists and data analysts joined the project. Then, while they started deep-tracking information, we field reporters moved to Bolivia.

We landed in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, located in the southeast region of the country. After fueling our bodies and souls with yucca and fried plantain, we visited a dozen awe-inspiring water cooperatives in Santa Cruz. From there we traveled to La Paz, city in which the seat of government and most of the country’s public institutions are located. We felt our bodies boiling under the treacherous dry sun on the Altiplano region at 4,000 meters above sea level while we traveled along some of the Aymara communities located closest to the city and the Titicaca lake, where drinking water is a real privilege.

We moved from La Paz to Cochabamba, the epicenter of the social earthquake that started the Water War that ended in the year 2000 as the multinationals that controlled the water monopoly were expelled. We were invited to visit the public water company, that had been renationalised, and we shared long conversations with activists, technicians and neighbours in the neighbourhoods that the company cannot reach, all of which belong to the only city in the world where the locals are experts in water management.

Considering our travels across Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba and our eventful journeys through the Altiplano, we made Bolivia our home for several months. We returned to Europe with new cheerful friends that would take advantage of their good musical taste to take care of the music and audio for the documentary. We also found our image with the help of an Italian graphic designer and our social network voice with a little help from some polite Madrilian-accented gentleman.

Bolivia’s Everyday Water War was completed in Europe, through online communications among Rome, Berlin and Madrid. Soon you will be able to watch it online for free from anywhere in the world.


When was it shot?

About a year ago we started building the foundations of this project. During the first two months (May and July), we focused on exploring the history and its protagonists, getting in touch with experts and asking for loads of advice.

In August 2014 we met in Madrid to make the last preparations in order to fly to Bolivia on August 12th.

We returned to Europe after the Bolivian general elections, by mid-October. By the end of 2014 we had finished the story’s main structure – which remained untouched in spite of some discussions. The documentary has been edited at the dawn of 2015, including final animations, charts, and effects.

Now we are carefully working on the finishing touches.

Why have we done this?

The first concept for Bolivia’s Everyday Water War was conceived in August 2013, after reading NACLA, a story about the water war in Cochabamba. Since then, the water situation in Bolivia became a recurring theme for us almost unconsciously.

Bolivia is a paradigmatic case in the world’s struggle to access water. Evo Morales reached the front line of his country’s political scene in 2000, during the struggle against privatization in Cochabamba; in Santa Cruz, located in the southeast region of the country, we can find the cooperative that serves as a water management model for all of Latin America; all the while, in the Bolivian Altiplano there still live hundreds of indigenous communities that lack water fountain access, even though they are surrounded by Andean glaciers. Evo Morales himself boasted about being the prime mover of Human Right to Water and Sanitation before the UN General Assembly.

Bolivia is one of the richest countries of the world in terms of renewable water resources. However, and in spite of water access being one of Morales’ policies pillars, there are still around 2 million people in Bolivia that live without water on a daily basis.

We believe this is a story worth telling.


  1. Hi there!

    What you’re doing with this is amazing, when will the public be able to watch it?

    I am currently writing a masters thesis on exactly this! All about human water security and why water is the fundamental resource development agencies must focus on to secure real sustainable development.

    I would love to ask a few questions about the documentary and would love to see it too!

    So please do get in contact!

    Best wishes,

    Amy Hughes

    1. Hey, Amy!

      Thanks a lot for contacting us, we are truly glad that we are not the only ones that try to study and to let people understand the relevance and importance of water!

      The webdoc as a whole will not be available for some time yet, but we will launch some teasers and trailers. As of now we are actually working on a special collaboration with the Spanish newspaper El País. There you can find a couple of articles that talk about The Water War itself and BEWW’s protagonist Jacinto Sirpa.
      It is in Spanish, but we think you can find it very interesting: bit.ly/1MvM3DQ.

      And regarding your questions, we’ll be delighted to answer them all!

      Would you like to follow us on Twitter (@beww_en) or Facebook (fb.com/bewwdoc)? That way you can keep up to date easily.

      Thank you again.

      Best regards,
      The BEWW team

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