Programme OS3e Regional and nationwide
The Water Resources of Perú and the Consequences of Climate Change
Author(s): Daniel N. Leavell
Keyword(s): Water supply, climate change, glaciers, irrigation, Lima, Perú
Session: OS3e Regional and nationwide
The tropical nations of the Andes are beginning to experience the
consequences of global climate change. Perú, which has the greatest concentration of glaciers in all of the tropics, is
dependent on runoff from its cordilleras for water for hydroelectric generation, irrigation and drinking water supply.
Rapid recession of the mountain glaciers will lead to reduced meltwater contribution to stream flow, and diminished
water availability in the near future. Huge infrastructural investments are being made to obtain water for the arid
Pacific coastal plain; home to nearly 70 % of Perú’s 28 million people.
The glaciers have yielded a detailed
record of past climate variation, and archeology has detailed the consequent impacts of mega-drought on ancient
civilizations from Ecuador to Bolivia. Today the glaciers of Andes are smaller in area than at anytime for the last
5000 years. Many of these glaciers will disappear entirely within the next 50 years. The population of Perú will
double within the same period, and at the current rate of growth Lima will have a population of 15 million within 25
-30 years. Water supply, which is barely adequate for the population today, will need to be doubled. The future
sustainability of the water resource is uncertain, as is the functionality of the major water-related infrastructural
investments being made today.