Integrated upstream and downstream thinking to mitigate water security challenges from Peruvian glacier retreat

Lead Research Organisation: University of Plymouth
Department Name: Sch of Geog Earth & Environ Sciences

Abstract

Acceleration of glacial melt has severe implications for water-food-energy security and inter-connected livelihoods of vulnerable populations in river basins fed by glaciers. For example, in the Ancash Region of Peru, glacial melt from the Andean Mountains provides up to 67% of dry season water supply going up to 91% during extreme drought (annual average 19%). Rapid retreat of glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca has already had notable impact on that supply, with evidence to suggest the majority of rivers now exhibit decreasing dry-season discharge i.e. have reached and passed 'peak water'. Challenges associated with a reduced supply of water to downstream agriculture, industry and hydropower generation are exacerbated by enhanced sediment and contaminant flux in extreme wet season floods.

Climate change impacts compromise ecosystem service provision at times of both augmented low and high flow. While low flows and water supply are being increasingly impacted by the huge loss of water storage in shrinking glaciers, ENSO-related extreme events are leading to catastrophic delivery of excess water and sediment during high flows which compromise water and environmental quality downstream. Climate change is driving a hydrological regime of extremes with no advantage at either end: from supply and quality issues at low flow to more water than the system can handle at high flow, compromising water and soil quality downstream. Understanding the changing dynamics of glacial melt, hydrology and regional climate change is crucial in order for the design of infrastructure solutions and planning to be effective and resilient.

Responsible, efficient and sustainable water use is necessary in national and transboundary watersheds, to ensure adequate supply and mitigate emerging quality problems. In order to achieve this consultancies and advisory organisations require high quality robust scientific evidence to underpin their design decisions for watershed management. This entails moving from (inefficient) sectorial management of water to a more integrated and holistic approach that takes into account the need for conserving ecosystems services. Indeed, while the Peruvian Congress passed a historic Ecosystem Services law in 2014 to take a holistic approach to tackling these challenges, implementation of integrated action to achieve Sustainable Development Goals has been hampered by a lack of evidence of glacial-fed watershed processes and function. While studies to date have been conducted in the Cordillera Blanca in relation to dynamics of glacial retreat, associated natural disaster risk, hydrology and past glaciations we do not have a sufficiently holistic and integrated knowledge of the wider impacts of glacial melt on current and future ecosystem service provision which is hampered by complexity of human-environment feedbacks, a knowledge base essential for mitigation of future uncertainty and risks.

We propose that a basin-wide understanding of water, sediment and contaminant budgets within Peruvian glacial-fed basins is required to bring policy change for socio-economic benefits through (a) offsetting storage lost from shrinking glaciers through augmentation of mountain ecosystem service provision for landscape water retention and (b) providing the foundation for adaptive management strategies to support and enhance livelihoods under threat from high flows and downstream environmental quality consequences. This research is essential for the design of large-scale energy infrastructure, such as hydropower in glacier-fed regions. Likewise, bringing back and maintaining a balance between sustainable livelihoods and the environment is critical to build community resilience to environmental change.

Planned Impact

While NGOs and international institutions have begun work on mitigation activities in the Santa Basin and wider glacial-fed basins in Peru, to date their impact has been point-specific, reactive and isolated. The fragmented nature of interventions means potential benefit and improvement to ecosystems and fresh water resource provision are unknown. This underpins the need for the basin-wide approach proposed by this study to catalyse integrated development of adaption policies. Key policy questions remain unanswered; e.g. does transitioning of land use affect water balance and how are these changes augmented/affected by glacier hydrological processes and retreat. These critical scientific-technical gaps are made worse by the lack of tools or strategy to integrate scientific evidence of spatial and temporal dynamics of basin changing basin processes with ecosystem service provision in the water-food-energy security nexus. We aim to close these gaps and bring real change in policy through a combination of stakeholder engagement, training and knowledge exchange activities.

The Pathways to Impact strategy encompasses four key stakeholder groups: (1) national and regional agencies with responsibility for water resource and ecosystem management policy; (2) the water and hydropower industry; (3) third sector NGOs and commercial practitioner companies (e.g. Mott MacDonald) who provide technical, contractual and financial assistance; and (4) Peruvian and UK citizens and taxpayers.

1. National agencies and the management community: MERESE (the Mechanisms for Payments for Ecosystem Services Programme within the Ministry of the Environment) will be able to use the water balance models generated to underpin cases for mountain ecosystems protection and restoration to increase water storage capacity. SERNAMP (the Natural Protected Areas Institute within the Ministry of Agriculture with responsibility for land management policy will benefit in turn through wider ecosystem service provision of such protected and restored landscapes. The Peruvian National Water Authority (ANA) will benefit from water balance models for future resource policy planning, especially within their glaciology unit who are working on impact of retreat on long-term supply.

2. The water and hydropower industry: The Peruvian team have connections into key companies (Chavimochic, Chinecas, Urban Water and Sanitation Services in Huaraz, Chimbote and Trujillo) all of who will benefit from water resource monitoring and modelling data to support future business models and adaption to potential shortage challenges. They are key partners in the co-design and development of a Payment for Ecosystem services model. Hydropower companies are also key stakeholders (e.g. Orazul Energy) in the same way with clear interest in water supply but also siltation behind dams.

3. Third sector NGOs and commercial practitioner companies: have responsibility for implementation of on-the-ground interventions to promote environmental sustainability and associated UN SDGs. They will benefit both from research evidence bases to build local cases for specific intervention and also the channels to discuss and co-design wider policy and PES concept development with the above governmental and industrial partners within project workshops. Similarly, international consultancies and advisory organisations such as Mott MacDonald require high quality, robust scientific evidence to underpin their design decisions for watershed management.

4. The Peruvian and UK public are important stakeholders in the research and also beneficiaries in terms of enrichment of views on environmental management and ecosystem services that this programme will bring. Wider benefits will be achieved through science communication initiatives (e.g. through photojournalism projects and schools liaison).

Publications

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Title Impacts of Peruvian glacier retreat 
Description This artwork is a visualisation of the range of impacts directly arising from glacier retreat in the Peruvian Andes. It was created by Carey Marks to help communicate these issues to a wide, non-expert audience, as part of our public dissemination for the GlacierMap and SIGMA projects. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact This artwork was used an an integral part of the GlacierMap citizen science project as a vehicle to contribute to improved understanding of Andean glacier retreat for citizen scientist participants. The artwork has also been used as part of outreach events and talks to school students and early career scientists. 
URL https://sigmaperu.wordpress.com/impacts-of-glacier-retreat/
 
Description GlacierMap: mapping glacier change in the Peruvian Andes
Amount £19,899 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/T018690/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2019 
End 04/2020
 
Description Autoridad Nacional del Agua, Peru 
Organisation Government of Peru
Department Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation
Country Peru 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This collaboration is in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Collaborator Contribution This collaboration is in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Impact This collaboration is in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Start Year 2019
 
Description INAIGEM, Peru 
Organisation Government of Peru
Department Glaciers and Ecosystems Research National Institute
Country Peru 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This collaboration is still in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Collaborator Contribution This collaboration is still in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Impact This collaboration is still in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Start Year 2019
 
Description Instituto Geofisico del Peru (Peruvian Principal Investigator) 
Organisation Government of Peru
Department Geophysical Institute of Peru
Country Peru 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This collaboration is central to this Newton-Paulet project, as the Peruvian Principal Investigator, Sergio Morera, is based at IGP. Our project is still very much in it's early stages, and was granted a no-cost extension due to ill health of the UK PI. We are helping our Peruvian project partners at IGP to develop their skill set to help build capacity in their upcoming new analytical facility. This will include a visit from the Peruvian PI to the UK in June 2020 to develop inter-laboratory comparisons with our own facility at the University of Plymouth.
Collaborator Contribution The Peruvian team at IGP have been central in our collaborative preparations for fieldwork, and while conducting fieldwork, and they have been very helpful in preparing samples in Peru for shipping to the UK.
Impact No outputs to report at this stage aside from initial data from our initial field season in November 2019.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Instituto Peruano de Energía Nuclear, Peru 
Organisation Government of Peru
Department Peruvian Institute of Nuclear Energy
Country Peru 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This collaboration is still in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Collaborator Contribution This collaboration is still in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Impact This collaboration is still in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Start Year 2019
 
Description Instituto de Montaña 
Organisation Instituto de Montaña (IM)
Country Peru 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are working closely with Instituto de Montaña to help build upon their experience with local communities to now explore in more detail local perceptions of water quality.
Collaborator Contribution Instituto de Montaña have decades of experience working with remote communities in the Andes to help address challenges faced by them with climate change and the fragile environments that surround them. Instituto de Montaña are working with us to help achieve a collaborative, informed approach to fieldwork with local communities in the Rio Santa.
Impact This collaboration is multi-disciplinary: social science, physical science, governance, conservation
Start Year 2020
 
Description Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK 
Organisation Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This collaboration is still in it's early stages - no outcomes to report
Collaborator Contribution This collaboration is still in it's early stages - no outcomes to report
Impact This collaboration is still in it's early stages - no outcomes to report
Start Year 2019
 
Description Westcountry Rivers Trust, UK 
Organisation Westcountry Rivers Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This collaboration is in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Collaborator Contribution This collaboration is in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Impact This collaboration is in its early stages - no outcomes to report
Start Year 2019
 
Description A-level climate change day at the University of Plymouth 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact ~275 pupils from across Devon visited the University of Plymouth to learn about science and research related to climate change conducted by experts at the university. I gave a talk on the impact of climate change for glacier-fed water resources, related to the SIGMA project. The team of staff from the University have been asked to repeat this event in April 2020, with a focus on expert panel presentations and round-table discussion/debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description A-level climate change talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Caroline Clason delivered a talk to A-level pupils from the Devon region as part of the University of Plymouth's climate change day. The talk was delivered online due to COVID restrictions and focussed on the impact of retreating glaciers on water security, with a focus on the Peruvian Andes. There around 125 participants and Caroline had numerous questions from the audience following the talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Girls into Geoscience 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Caroline Clason and Sally Rangecroft delivered a workshop on Peruvian Glaciers and Water Resources as part of the virtual Girls into Geoscience 2020 event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/earth-sciences/girls-into-geoscience
 
Description Girls into Geoscience event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Girls into Geoscience (GiG) is a event which introduces female A-level students to the Earth sciences and demonstrate the world of careers and university research open to Earth science graduates today. It has become a network, supporting women in geology and those aspiring to be. Due to the virtual nature of GiG2020 it was attended by both local students (Plymouth/Devon) but also students from across the UK and Ireland. There were 230 participants in total. We had 89 girls and teachers booked into our GIS workshop on Peruvian glacier retreat. The workshop we held was fully interactive, and allowed the participants to explore the study region in Peru, learn about glacial processes, landforms, mountain environments and ecosystems, and glacial retreat. The workshop promoted many discussion points, and we received a lot of interest in the subject area and our research project after.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description International Glaciological Society 2020 oral presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I gave an oral presentation at the International Glaciological Society virtual meeting in October 2020 to a diverse audience of researchers about the SIGMA Peru project, focusing on one aspect about peak water in the Rio Santa basin, and how we can move forward with addressing the differences in methods, approaches and terminology to make peak water estimates more transparent for both researchers and end users. The talk was well received with questions and interest in the topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Invited seminar at the University of Leedsu 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to give a talk to the River Basins Process and Management research group at the University of Leeds, which was also attended by a wider audience of students and researchers from within the university. The talk focussed on water quality and quantity in glacier catchments, including the SIGMA project. I was also able to link up with researchers from another of the Newton Fund Peru glacier projects based at Leeds during my visit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description MEGAPOLIS lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Caroline Clason delivered an invited lecture on "The downstream impacts of retreating glaciers on water quality and security" as part of the MEGAPOLIS school for young scientists about "Pollutant and sediment mobility in river systems: monitoring studies to identify human impacts" which was hosted by Lomonosov Moscow State University and had around 400 participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://megapolis2020.ru/#