Formalizing watershed management in Arequipa, Peru

Authors: Ruxandra Popovici*, Purdue University, Glenn Arce Larrea, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, Edwin Bocardo Delgado, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, Anna Erwin, Purdue University, Zhao Ma, Purdue University , Linda Prokopy, Purdue University, Nelly Ramírez Calderón, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, Patricia Salas O’Brien, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, Eliseo Zeballos, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín
Topics: Latin America
Keywords: water governance, social institution, decision-making, global environmental change, water policy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Delaware A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As watersheds around the world are becoming increasingly threatened, a common policy response has been to formalize water management, where government authorities recognize and regulate local water rights, practices, and institutions. While studies have examined the interaction between government and local institutions in communities with strong pre-existing governance, we have a limited understanding of the role of government intervention in communities that have been weakened by economic, political, and environmental changes. We investigate how formalizing water management affected four communities in the Colca Watershed in Arequipa, Peru. We look at the effect of the 2009 Water Resources Law on pre-existing institutions for managing irrigation water for crop lands. We found that in all four communities, local institutions have faced multiple stressors, including climate change, migration, and economic shifts. These factors weakened local rules, norms, and practices, resulting in reduced capacity for collective action, organization, and problem solving. With the 2009 Hydrological Resource Law, the state is stepping in to manage the Colca Watershed as community institutions are declining. Government policies include the creation and strengthening of “private” organizations for watershed management and a move toward a direct relationship between the state and individual water users that bypasses community institutions. However, these new institutions provide incomplete assistance, which causes a seeming clash between local and government-supported watershed management practices. We argue that such tensions arise because communities are currently in a stage of transition from institutions that supported communal rights and property to government institutions that provide limited assistance to individuals.

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