11, April, 2013
NON-ELLA PUBLICATION

Climate Change and Water Resources in the Tropical Andes

This IDB paper discusses the current tensions and conflicts surrounding water use in the tropical Andes from a social and economic perspective. It also focuses on the challenges ahead and possible solutions for more-sustainable and equitable future water use in the region.

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Climate change will without a doubt affect future access to clean drinking water as well as to water for sanitation, irrigation and agriculture, mining operations, and hydropower production in the tropical Andes. Some of these changes will be felt directly through altered precipitation regimes and changes in total rain or snowfall amount or changes in the length of the wet seasons. Other changes may be modulated by adjustments in ecosystem services, such as retreating glaciers or degrading wetlands (paramos) leading to altered water quality or seasonality of streamflow in rivers. Social, economic, and environmental conflicts surrounding the struggle for control over water will be exacerbated in areas where water scarcity is juxtaposed with rapidly growing water demand due to population pressure and expanding economic activities, thereby threatening traditional irrigation and water use practices.

This paper describes the challenges surrounding current and future water use in the tropical Andes by first reviewing the modern and future projected hydrological cycle and anticipated impacts on environmental services provided by glaciers and wetland vegetation. The discussion then elaborates on the current tensions and conflicts surrounding water use from a social and economic perspective, and ends by focusing on the challenges ahead and looking at possible solutions for more-sustainable and equitable future water use in the region.

 

Author: Mathias Vuille
Orginal publication date: March, 2013
Publisher: Inter-American Development Bank

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