Central America, the isthmus connecting the main body of North America with the South American continent, is made up of seven countries: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama (Fig. 6.1). The region has an area of over 500,000 km2 and a population of more than 37 million, growing at an annual rate of 2.4% (GWP, 2005). Urbanization over the last 30 years has shifted the population balance, with nearly 53% of the people now living in areas officially considered to be urban, and the remaining 47% residing in rural areas.

The Central American region shares a volcanic chain that extends from the north to the south and serves to divide the region's waters into Atlantic and Pacific draining basins. The Atlantic region is approximately 2.3 times larger than the Pacific and drains 70% of the territory. The most abundant rivers, as well as those with the largest watersheds, are also found within the Atlantic region (Leonard, 1987).

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