Peruvian Glacier Retreat and its Impact on Water Security (Peru GROWS)

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Engineering and Environment


Meltwater from glaciers in the Peruvian Andes provides an important and reliable water supply for local and downstream communities for domestic purposes, hydropower, subsistence and commercial agriculture, and industry; and to support rare, high-elevation wetlands and wider ecosystem functioning. However, this long-term, reliable water supply is threatened by increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns in the mountainous areas, resulting in shrinking of glaciers and changes in the amount and seasonality of meltwater runoff. A warming climate is also associated with an increasing frequency of extreme hydrological events, such as floods and droughts. Coupled with the stresses of Peru's rapid urbanisation and economic development, these changes are expected to lead to significant water scarcity, with the potential to inhibit economic growth and degrade vulnerable ecosystems (and the services they provide), which in turn will increase social vulnerability, adversely affect the equitable sharing of resources, increase social conflicts, and destabilise Peruvian societies (from local communities to the large coastal urban centres).

Peru GROWS aims to increase the resilience of Peruvian communities and ecosystems to hydrological changes arising from shrinking glaciers in the Andes. Working in the Rio Santa catchment - the most glacierised catchment of Peru - we will map the current socio-ecological system to identify where, and how, different communities and ecosystems are exposed to risks from water availability. We will then integrate field measurements and remote-sensing data into physically-based glacier and hydrological models, to simulate the past, present, and possible future changes (to the end of the twenty-first century) to the climate, the glaciers, and to river flows (including amounts, seasonality, and inter-annual variability).

In close partnership with local stakeholders, we will exploit this new knowledge to explore the direct and indirect impacts of projected change in glacier behaviour on different communities in the catchment, with a focus on food security, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and energy production. We will provide information on the current state of the water balance and hotspots of potential water scarcity/trade-offs that can be easily understood by key stakeholders and will provide the basis for adaptation planning at local and regional level.

Key stakeholders and end-users have been closely involved in the design of Peru GROWS and will co-deliver the research. Two key NGOs, with a long history of work in this region (CARE and the Mountain Institute) as well as social scientists at the National Glacier and Mountainous Ecosystems Research Institute and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, will act as an interface with the local stakeholders, especially vulnerable rural communities. Together, they will have a key role in co-designing appropriate adaptation strategies for water resources management and agriculture that will create lasting positive impact. With this, we lay a firm foundation from which multiple impacts can emerge during and after the project.

Planned Impact

Peru GROWS addresses three of the five challenges outlined by NERC and CONCYTEC in the funding call. In meeting these challenges, Peru GROWS will deliver a wide range of economic and societal impacts, with the main beneficiaries being:

Local communities, especially rural Quechua-speaking communities in the Parón, Quillcay and Queshque sub-catchments of the Rio Santa. We will disseminate evidence from the models about changing water resources and potential future threats in locally accessible language, terms and media. This will help communities understand and accommodate ongoing environmental changes that impact small-scale agricultural production. Community members will participate in the co-production of adaptation strategies to water scarcity (WP4) which will take into account local needs as well as ancestral and local knowledge. These strategies will help communities build resilience to water scarcity and climate change, seeking to turn risk to opportunity by improving efficiency in the use of water resources in household and agricultural use. As these communities currently face high rates of poverty and low economic opportunity, increased agricultural production through improved water management can have a long-term beneficial impact for village-level economic development. Working at the interface of science, policy and local needs, the project will contribute to improving water governance in Peru by promoting a closer and more inclusive collaboration between local stakeholders, institutions and academics.

Peru GROWS will inform communities, local students, teachers and groups of women around the issues of glacier recession and water security by creating a documentation centre in the Santa catchment (hosted by one of the community groups), which will also give the project greater visibility. The centre will host an exhibition which will travel to other communities and schools, as well as to venues in Lima. We will develop an educational kit that teachers can use with school children, and work with selected schools on this.

Commercial agriculture. The Coastal Plain is the most important production area for agricultural exports with around 200,000 ha of commercial agriculture producing crops for domestic consumption and export. Farmers, growers and businesses will benefit from increased reliability of water supplies during critical periods of the year which will increase business resilience to climate risks, maintain food security, secure employment and increase foreign exchange earnings from export crops.

Local governance. Beneficiaries include the Regional Government of the Ancash Region, municipalities and mountain communities, the Water Users Boards in the Rio Santa catchment, and the Local Water Authorities for Huaraz, Santiago de Chuco and Santa-Lacramarca-Nepeña. Information on the current state of water balance and hotspots of potential water scarcity/conflicts will support the development of local and regional adaptation strategies to increase food and energy security and to maximise ecosystem services in the face of a changing climate.

Energy/hydropower. More than 40% of Peru's energy production is currently generated by hydroelectric power, with a number of important hydropower plants (Cañón del Pato, 263 MW, and Quitaracsa, 118 MW) located in the Rio Santa catchment. Hydropower plants in this catchment will benefit from improved reservoir practices to mitigate against potential water scarcity and the associated impacts on energy generation. The vulnerability map highlighting current and potential future areas of concern related to water security can be used to advise on the most suitable locations to build new and expanded plants, which are required to meet Peru's growing demand for energy and secure its continued economic growth.


10 25 50
Title Cleaned air temperature and precipitation records for the Rio Santa 
Description Weather station data from SENHAMI and INAIGEM from within and close to the Rio Santa catchment was cleaned to allow its use within the WRF climate model. After cleaning 42 records of precipitation and 34 records of air temperature are available. The cleaning methods were consistent across the stations. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact These datasets will allow the WRF climate models to bias-corrected using this station data, the resulting climate data will be used as an input for the TOPKAPI and WEAP models which are used to predict the future water resources across the catchment. 
Title Cleaned meteorological data for on/near Shallup and Artesonraju Glaciers 
Description Raw meteorological data obtained through collaboration with the University of Innsbruck was cleaned to provide a sorted and checked timeseries for 6 stations on or near the Shallup and Artesonraju Glaciers. Metadata explaining the cleaning steps for each station has also been compiled. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This cleaned data will be used in the calibration of the TOPKAPI glacier-hydrological model. It will also be available publicly at a later date, though the University of Innsbruck data portal. 
Title Database of Peruvian data available on the Rio Santa catchment 
Description This database includes information on Peruvian datasets which would provide information for the Rio Santa catchment. The database includes data sources on glacier lakes, glacier extents, social information, administrative information, meteorological data, hydrological data and water demand information. For each data source the type of data, a description, the data provider, format, year of publication, scale of data, link to the data, and additional metadata (e.g. resolution, coordinate information) are included. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This database provides links to the background information required for the set up and calibration of the TOPKAPI glacier-hydrological model and the WEAP water resources model. 
Title Database of international data available on the Rio Santa catchment 
Description This comprises a database of data from international sources (primarily found from a literature search). The database includes details on hydrological, glaciological and meteorological and water demand data available for the Rio Santa catchment (or at larger scales but including the Rio Santa catchment). For each record the type of data, spatial location, data source, reference, contact details for the data provider, link to the publication, and (if possible) link to the data are given. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This database, and the resulting contacts, resulted in several collaborations which have allowed sharing of data useful for the project. The shared data will mainly be used for the calibration of the TOPKAPI glacier-hydrological model. This resulted in collaborations with Caroline Aubry-Wake (University of Saskatchewan), Wolfgang Gurgiser (University of Innsbruck), Wilson Suarez (SENAMHI) and Michel Baraer/Brian Mark (University of Quebec/Ohio State University). 
Title Future climate modelling 
Description Results of the ACCESS 1-0 model with NPI for all of South America at a 50km resolution. Model results are available from 1980-2100. The next steps will include higher resolution runs (over Peru at a 12km resolution and over the Rio Santa at a 4km resolution). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The results from the climate modelling will be used as inputs to drive the TOPKAPI and WEAP models, and therefore allow the prediction of future runoff and water resources scenarios. 
Title Snowcover outlines 
Description Outlines of snowcover, and the mean elevations of snowcover over the Cordillera Blanca between February 2015 and September 2019, at a close to monthly resolution. The snowcover outlines and elevation were derived from NDSI thresholding of Landsat data applied in Google Earth Engine. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This dataset will be used to validate the snowcover outputs of the TOPKAPI glacier hydrological model, as well as the threshold air temperature used to determine if precipitation is rain or snowfall. 
Title WRF hindcast and present results for Rio Santa 
Description The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model has been run from 2008 to 2018 over four nested domains, an outer domain at 12 km covering the whole of Peru, a 4 km domain, covering the Rio Santa, and an inner domain at 800 m covering most of the upper catchment of the Rio Santa. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The climate modelling results will provide inputs to the TOPKAPI and WEAP models, and therefore contribute to runoff predictions. The WRF outputs will also provide information on the spatial and temporal variability of air temperature and precipitation across the catchment, which will be used to inform the lapse rates applied in the TOPKAPI and WEAP models. 
Description ACInn Station Portal 
Organisation University of Innsbruck
Country Austria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The data contributed by the University of Innsbruck was collated and cleaned, to provide corrected timeseries with removed erroneous data. Metadata about the cleaning steps conducted were also produced. The cleaned data and metadata have been shared with the University of Innsbruck, and this will be shared publically alongside the raw data in their ACInn Station Portal, once they have finalised the creation of the database and matadata.
Collaborator Contribution To provide weather station data from 6 stations (Artesonraju Moraine, Artesonraju Carac Moraine, Artesonraju Glacier, Shallup Glacier, Shallup Moraine Old and Shallup Moraine New), alongside information on the technical set up of the stations and basic metadata.
Impact Creation of cleaned weather station data and associated metadata.
Start Year 2019
Description PEGASUS 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The WRF climate modelling conducted as part of PeruGROWS has been conducted by the same postdoc using the same methods as will be applied to the PEGASUS project (also funded by NERC, PI Duncan Quincey). Similarly, the calibration and running of the TOPKAPI glacier-hydrological model will be conducted using the same methods and by the same postdoc across both the PeruGROWS and PEGASUS projects. This allows direct comparison of the outputs from the PeruGROWS project (over the Rio Santa basin) with the outputs from the Vilcanota region (PEGASUS project). Already the WRF climate modelling has been conducted for both regions. The collection of weather station data for the calibration of the TOPKAPI modelling work has also been conducted across both regions so that spatial variations in model parameters can be understood across the entire region.
Collaborator Contribution Please see above, the postdocs involved will be employed by both projects (Peru GROWS then PEGASUS) but will merge workflows across both projects to allow efficiencies in the modelling set ups.
Impact WRF climate modelling outputs for 40 years from 1980 to 2020 for both the Rio Santa and Vicanota catchments using the same methodology.
Start Year 2019
Description SENAMHI 
Organisation National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology of Peru
Country Peru 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The partnership is with Wilson Suarez and the team will involve him with the analysis and publication of the results. The data will be used primarily within the calibration of the WEAP modelling.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of hydrological and meteorological data about the Rio Santa catchment, including information on lake levels, long term runoff data and weather station data.
Impact Calibration of the WEAP model, which will allow prediction of future water resource availability in the Rio Santa catchment.
Start Year 2019
Description Kick-off workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The group held a kick-off workshop in Huaraz Peru. The kick-off meeting briefly included: presentations from each of the workpackage components; allowed the group to make decisions about the size of the catchment included, period of simulations and future climate scenarios; and resulted in discussions on items such as the timeline for the work, publication policy, research objectives, data sharing, WP meetings and WP leaders. It was also invaluable for allowing the team to form a closer working relationship to allow the close collaboration between UK and Peruvian partners, and to allow the smooth transition of the work across workpackages.

After the scientific part of the kick-off meeting the group met with local stakeholders and local dignitaries actors of the Yanayacu, Quillcay and Paron basins in the city of Catac. The scientists were honoured to take part in a flag raising ceremony in the city before there was a bus trip to the Pastoruri Glacier. The following day there was a discussion workshop with the local actors in the town of Huaraz. This was an opportunity for the Peru GROWS scientists to explain the aims of the project to the local organisations. Then there was a participatory workshop where the local actors were asked to contribute their views on the water resources in the Cordillera Blanca. Actors included representatives from the Regional Office for Agriculture, Association of Water Users, Sunass (drinking water provider) and local politicians.

Key outputs included:
- Agreed data sharing protocols, publication policy, work timeline, research objectives and workpackage leadership structure
- Stakeholder knowledge about the PeruGROWS project, its aims and objectives and planned outputs
- Information from stakeholders on their views on water resources in the Rio Santa which will aid in the future work with stakeholders later in the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description UK-NERC Peru projects meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Members of all the NERC Peru projects met together in Birmingham for two days. Participants were mainly UK PIs of the NERC-Peru projects, alongside some postdoctoral researchers. The purpose of the meeting was to allow synergies between projects to be identified and to allow discussions on ways in which impacts of the projects could be enhanced through joint working.

Presentations on each of the projects were given in the first part of the meeting, allowing discussions about the scientific objectives of each of the projects and how collaboration may be possible. The group also shared best practice about their experiences of working in PERU, to assist each other in the following years of scientific collaboration. The second day focused on points brought up on the previous day. This included: a discussion of fieldwork timings, to avoid 'stakeholder fatigue' and maximise the opportunities for collaboration where data from one project could be beneficial for the other; agreement on data sharing and authorship publication policy for work between projects; and the initiation of a plan for joint end of project dissemination.

Key outputs:
- Shared field and stakeholder engagement plans;
- Agreement on data sharing;
- Preliminary plans for a synoptic white paper;
- Preliminary plans for end-of-project dissemination;
- Drive to continue to work collaboratively and meet again in 12 months.

Aside from the benefits to the entire group of NERC-Peru projects, there were also impacts on PeruGROWS specifically, including:

- Agreement between the Peru GROWS and PEGASUS projects to allow the TOPKAPI glacier hydrological modelling and WRF climate modelling to be carried out consistently within both projects
- Sharing of hydrological data from the SIGMA Peru and CASCADA projects with Peru GROWS
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020