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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Annals of the Association of American Geographers
Title New Geographies of Water and Climate Change in Peru: Coupled Natural and Social Transformations in the Santa River Watershed
Volume 103
Issue 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Page numbers 363-374
URL http://eps.mcgill.ca/~mckenzie/reprint/Bury_et_al_2013_New_Geographies.pdf
Projections of future water shortages in the world’s glaciated mountain ranges have grown increasingly dire. Although water modeling research has begun to examine changing environmental parameters, the inclusion of social scenarios has been very limited. Yet human water use and demand are vital for long-term adaptation, risk reduction, and resource allocation. Concerns about future water supplies are particularly pronounced on Peru’s arid Pacific slope, where upstream glacier recession has been accompanied by rapid and water-intensive economic development. Models predict water shortages decades into the future, but conflicts have already arisen in Peru’s Santa River watershed due to either real or perceived shortages. Modeled thresholds do not align well with historical realities and therefore suggest that a broader analysis of the combined natural and social drivers of change is needed to more effectively understand the hydrologic transformation taking place across the watershed. This article situates these new geographies of water and climate change in Peru within current global change research discussions to demonstrate how future coupled research models can inform broader scale questions of hydrologic change and water security across watersheds and regions. We provide a coupled historical analysis of glacier recession in the Cordillera Blanca, declining Santa River discharge, and alpine wetland contraction. We also examine various water withdrawal mechanisms, including smallholder agriculture, mining, potable water use, hydroelectric power generation, and coastal irrigation. We argue that both ecological change and societal forces will play vital roles in shaping the future of water resources and water governance in the region. Key Words: agriculture, climate change, coupled systems, hydrology, mining, Peru.

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