Contested water entitlements, livelihoods and land use: integrated water resources management along Peru’s engineered Colca-Siguas watershed

Authors: Ramzi Tubbeh*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Water Resources and Hydrology, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: IWRM, hydraulic infrastructure, Peru, water, livelihoods, land use
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 4.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the 1990s, policymakers consider integrated water resources management (IWRM) the ideal paradigm for fixing water distribution problems. Rejecting supply-oriented solutions based on large-scale infrastructure, IWRM seeks to regulate demand and harmonize water allocation among users. Political ecology literature has addressed the social-ecological effects of inter-basin water transfers and the shortcomings of IWRM, but few studies cover of the effects of IWRM in heavily engineered watersheds. My ongoing research uses remote sensing, farmer surveys, and semi-structured interviews to compare the implementation and coupled effects of IWRM and large-scale hydraulic infrastructure on land use and livelihoods in highland and lowland sites along the Colca-Siguas watershed in southwestern Peru. This watershed has been transformed since 1983 by an inter-basin water transfer project that conveys water from the highlands to an irrigation site in a lowland desert plateau. Peasants in the terraced highlands and a growing population of urban residents and farmers in the lowlands rely on water facilitated by project infrastructure and managed according to IWRM policy. Preliminary findings suggest that changing water availability in the highlands has prompted the expansion of small-scale agriculture in some communities without preventing land abandonment in others. Additionally, while most highland users resist state control of water, they seek water licenses in order to avoid dispossession, thereby indirectly supporting IWRM implementation, which relies on data for scientific management of water. By showing that water policy outcomes are strongly conditioned by infrastructural, cultural, demographic, and political-economic factors, my research qualifies both endorsement and critique of IWRM.

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