Climate change and land degradation reduce water availability and increase the risk of floods, extreme droughts, erosion, and landslides by directly affecting water-regulating ecosystems such as wetlands, native grasslands, and mountain glaciers.
According to the latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Andes are one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change regarding droughts, tropical storms and hurricanes, heavy rains and floods.
The report states that ‘’Global warming has caused glacier loss in the Andes from 30% to more than 50% of their area since the 1980s. In addition, glacier retreat, temperature increase and precipitation variability, together with land use changes, have affected ecosystems, water resources and livelihoods through landslides and flood disasters.’’
In Peru, unfortunately, agriculture, migration, conflict, and economic growth have been negatively affected by a sharp increase in major floods, prolonged droughts, and dry-season water scarcity. The country’s geography and climate make water scarcity a persistent problem, particularly in rural areas where access to clean water is often limited.
In 2016, Peru experienced one of its worst droughts in decades, which affected nearly 2 million people and caused severe water shortages in many parts of the country. The drought was caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is characterised by warmer-than-usual ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. El Niño typically leads to increased rainfall in some parts of the world, but it can also cause droughts in others, including Peru.
The 2016 drought had consequential impacts on Peru’s agriculture sector, which employs a large portion of the country’s population. Crops such as maise, quinoa, and potatoes were severely affected, leading to a decrease in production and rising food prices. The drought also led to a shortage of drinking water, particularly in rural areas where access to water is already limited.
Since 2016, Peru has experienced several other droughts, including in 2017 and 2019, further impacting the country’s agriculture sector and water resources. These droughts have highlighted the need for long-term solutions to prevent and mitigate the impacts of droughts in Peru.
What can be done?
As stated, Peru is one of the countries in South America that has been severely impacted by droughts in recent years. Droughts are periods of unusually low rainfall that can cause significant water shortages and affect agriculture and public health. Accordingly, combating water scarcity in Peru will require a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the supply and demand sides of the issue.
Here are some steps that could be taken to prevent water scarcity in Peru:
Improving water management: The Government of Peru could invest in better water management practices to ensure that water is used efficiently and sustainably. This could involve creating water conservation plans, promoting water-efficient technologies, and regulating water use in industries that consume large amounts of water.
Increasing investment in water infrastructure: Peru could invest in building and maintaining infrastructure for water treatment, distribution, and storage. This could include constructing more reservoirs, improving irrigation systems, and building water treatment plants in rural areas to improve access to clean water.
Promoting rainwater harvesting: Rainwater harvesting is a sustainable solution that could be used to supplement the country’s water supply. This could involve installing rainwater collection systems on rooftops and using the collected water for non-potable uses, such as irrigation or cleaning.
Increasing public awareness: Raising public awareness about water scarcity and the importance of conserving water could help reduce water usage and promote sustainable water management practices. This could involve campaigns to educate the public about the impacts of water scarcity on public health, agriculture, and the environment.
Peru is home to one of the driest deserts in the world, the Atacama Desert, which covers a large portion of the country’s southern region. The country also has a high degree of geographic and climatic diversity, with mountains, rainforests, and coastal areas. While the country receives significant amounts of rainfall in some areas, it is unevenly distributed throughout the year and the country, making access to water a challenge.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics of Peru (INEI), approximately 15 million Peruvians lack access to safe water and basic sanitation. This lack of access to clean water has significant public health implications, particularly in rural areas where waterborne diseases are common.
The Government of Peru has implemented several measures to address water scarcity issues. One such measure is the creation of the National Water Authority (ANA), which is responsible for managing the country’s water resources. The ANA is also responsible for promoting the sustainable use of water resources and developing water management plans for the country’s various river basins.
The government has also invested in infrastructure projects to improve water access in rural areas. For example, the government has funded the construction of wells, water treatment plants, and irrigation systems. These infrastructure projects have helped to provide clean water to many Peruvians who previously lacked access.
In addition, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) declared that they are invested in climate and water security research and innovation to secure a consistent water supply for the future. By supporting natural infrastructure projects, advancing climate science research, and empowering local communities with sound management practices to protect and sustain their water resources, USAID states that they are helping vulnerable communities, local governments, and water managers adapt to changes in water availability.
Despite these efforts, however, there is still a long way to go to ensure that all Peruvians have access to safe and reliable water. One significant challenge is the lack of water treatment facilities in many rural areas, which can lead to the contamination of water sources. Another challenge is the impact of climate change on the country’s water resources. As temperatures continue to rise, Peru is likely to experience more frequent and severe droughts, exacerbating water scarcity issues.
Overall, water scarcity remains a major challenge for Peru. Droughts in Peru have significantly impacted the country’s agriculture sector and water resources. While the Peruvian Government has taken measures to mitigate the impacts of droughts, more needs to be done to prevent them from occurring in the first place. By investing in drought-resistant crops, promoting sustainable farming practices, and addressing climate change, Peru can work towards a future where droughts are decreased. Therefore, preventing the negative consequences of water scarcity in Peru will require a coordinated effort from the government, businesses, and individuals.