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The changing water cycle: climatic and socioeconomic drivers of water‐related changes in the Andes of Peru

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Water resources in high mountains play a fundamental role for societies and ecosystems both locally and downstream. Impacts of global change, including climate change, glacier shrinkage, and socioeconomic forces related to demographics, agroindustrial development, and hydroelectricity generation; pose new hydrological risks for human livelihoods. However, these hydroclimatic and socioeconomic drivers of water resource change are often poorly quantified and interconnected, while data scarcity poses challenges in these regions. Here we review the state of knowledge for two major catchments in the Peruvian Andes, which hold the largest tropical glacier mass worldwide: the Santa River (Cordillera Blanca) and Vilcanota River (Cordillera Vilcanota). Our integrative review of water resource change and comparative discharge analysis of two gauging stations in the Santa and Vilcanota River catchments show that the future provision of water resources is a concern to regional societies and must be factored more carefully into water management policies. In this context, observed hydroclimatic and socioeconomic changes represent important drivers of water availability, allocation, and conflicts over water resources. The legal framework and decentralized institutional architecture in Peru could potentially provide a basis for participatory integrative water management; however, unequal power relations, institutional fragility and increasing competition over water resources hamper these efforts. We identify several research gaps, including the need for more in situ data, cultural analyses, and a risk‐based framework that combines climate‐related hazards with human and natural vulnerabilities. Finally, this review suggests that future adaptation plans for water management should better link science, society, and policy. WIREs Water 2015, 2:715–733. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1105 This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change
Overview of the Santa River catchment.
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Specific monthly discharge (Qspec) and cumulative monthly discharge anomalies (Qcum) for the Santa River (SR, La Balsa gauge, 1880 m a.s.l.) and Vilcanota River (VR, km105 gauge, 2069 m a.s.l.) between 1958 and 2013. The two upper boxes show absolute precipitation deviations from the seasonal mean (April–September, October–March) of GPCC reanalysis data (1958–2010, 0.5° spatial resolution) for both catchments.
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
Overview of the Vilcanota River catchment.
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]

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