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IMPACT OF THE GLACIER RETREAT ON THE WATER RESOURCES AVALABILTY IN HIGH MOUNTAIN CITIES: “EL ALTO” AND “LA PAZ”, BOLIVIA

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Edson RAMIREZ (1), Carlos OLMOS (1), Angel ROMAN (1), Cinthya RAMALLO (2), Fabiola LEDEZMA (1)
1)Instituto de Hidráulica e Hidrología, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (IHH- UMSA), CP. 699 La Paz - Bolivia 2)Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Montpellier – France. contact: eramirez@acelerate.com

Keyword(s): Tropical glaciers, climatic change, water supply
AbstractThe city of La Paz, administrative capital of Bolivia, is located at 3600 m a.s.l. with a population of one million inhabitants. An increasing migratory flow from the countryside has formed the city of “El Alto” (3800 m a.s.l.), also about one million inhabitants, that borders La Paz In both cities, water supplies for human consumption and hydropower partly comes from the deglaciation of the Royal Cordillera. The dramatic glacier shrinkage of this Cordillera during the last 30 years, as a result of the present climatic changes, is causing a loss of regulation capacity of the river basins and a diminution of water availability in these two cities. Appling remote sensing techniques and hydrological models, the sensitivity and vulnerability to climate change of the glaciarized basins of Tuni-Condoriri, Zongo and Takesi, has studied. These catchments provide around 80% of water for human consumption and 90% of electricity to the cities of “El Alto” and “La Paz”. To quantify the glacier retreat, new tools in remote sensing are used as the ASTER, CBERS or ALOS satellite images. The results show an imminent disappearance of the glaciers in these catchments within the next 40 years. The analysis of the water demands and supplies for “El Alto” shows a break in 2009, where the demand will surpass the water supply. This significant loss of water resources availability can jeopardize the hydrological, agricultural and energetical sustainability of the region in the next decades.
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