An IDB program to reduce the vulnerability of the municipalities of Batallas, Pucarani and El Alto in Bolivia to future water shortages by increasing water storage and supply infrastructure, improving irrigation systems and establishing water management measures will be financed by the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) and the IDB.
The projected water deficiencies will result from combination of climate change effects and rapid population growth.
Recent research on glacier melting in the tropical Andes and the hydrology of La Paz valley shows the projected climate change impacts on the water resources of La Paz and El Alto, thus affecting water availability for domestic urban and rural uses. This program seeks to provide a first response to these needs, using as the focus of analysis and intervention the basins of Jacha Jahuira and Linku, located less than 35 km. from La Paz and El Alto. These two watersheds currently constitute an important source of water for local rural communities dedicated to small-scale agricultural activities and livestock for milk production. These watersheds also represent a significant potential source of potable water for the peri-urban area of El Alto and La Paz.
The program. The “Multipurpose Water Resources and Irrigation Project for the Municipalities of Batallas, Pucarani and El Alto” will be financed by a US$42.5 million PPCR grant and a US$35 million IDB loan. Additionally, a US$4.75 NDF grant will support the formulation and implementation of adaptation action plans at community and municipality levels, including training activities for the adoption of the irrigation infrastructure improvements introduced by the Multipurpose Project.
The Multipurpose Project will improve water supply infrastructure in order to increase climate resilience in urban areas. It also includes the refurbishment of existing and implementation of new modern irrigation systems in the municipalities of Batallas and Pucarani, as well as rural water supply and integrated watershed management with an adaptation approach.
The program will implement an integral river basin management (IRBM) plan consisting of conservation measures for natural ecosystems (bofedales) and water provisioning for multiple uses to protect the water resources in the context of climate change. The IRBM plan will be carried out in consultation with stakeholders from the upper and lower basin areas. Activities will emphasize the role that women play in the management and protection of the micro-basins.
The IRBM plan will identify economic zones; map and describe biophysical, biodiversity, and aesthetic characteristics; and define critical areas requiring protection, reforestation, erosion control, recharging of aquifers, and buffer zones to handle extreme flows. Community members will participate in land use zoning for environmental, social and/or economic activities.
A special component to reduce possible social tensions and facilitate the rapid execution of the works by protecting and benefiting the most vulnerable population groups will be designed in parallel with the infrastructure projects. This component will strengthen capacities to use climate change information in planning. Educational materials will be developed, including technical and scientific publications.
Climate change impact. The program activities will both counteract climate changes that are resulting in a loss of water reserves in the glaciers and reduce the effective capacity to store and regulate water in the reservoirs due to changes in rainfall distribution.
Throughout the Andes, glaciers are shrinking and even disappearing in some places. Natural storage capacity and regulation of water resources would be affected by glacier retreat. Changes in precipitation patterns in the highlands will also affect the capacity of water supply systems by concentrating rainfall in the period from December to March and severely reducing rainfall during the remainder of the year. Other climate trends show an increase in water evaporation and reduced soil moisture due to rising temperatures and other factors.
High-priority on adaptation. Bolivia’s National Mechanism for Adaptation to Climate Change (2007-2016) presents a comprehensive strategy for reducing vulnerability to climate change that includes adaptation measures for the most vulnerable sectors: water resources, food security, health, ecosystems, and settlements. Within these sectors, it identified the need for scientific research, training, outreach and education, and incorporation of traditional knowledge.