Societal Impacts of Glacier Melt in the Andes, Peru (SIGMA: Peru)
A growing population, combined with changes to water availability and quantity due to climate change, is increasing the pressure on dwindling water supplies in the Peruvian Andes. Glaciers provide a critical water supply to millions living in South America, acting as buffers to Andean water supplies as they contribute by slowly releasing water through melt, which contributes to downstream drinking water, agriculture, hydroelectricity and industry. Containing over 70% of the world’s tropical ice glaciers, the Peruvian Andes are very much an active part of this water security concern as glaciers in the region are rapidly retreating.
SIGMA is an interdisciplinary, international science project focusing on the water, food and energy security impacts of climate change on glacier-fed rivers in the Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes. The project is funded by the Newton Fund and CONCYTEC, and is being led by the University of Plymouth (UK) and the Instituto Geofísico del Perú (Peru). Our project seeks to evaluate the past, present and future problems associated with glacial retreat in Peru, with regards to water quantity and quality. The research aims to determine the links between upstream pressures and downstream responses through identification of sources of water, sediment and contaminants from both natural (e.g. glacier retreat) and anthropogenic sources (e.g. land use). Working collaboratively between the UK and Peruvian researchers, and between natural and social sciences, the project will develop strategies to improve water security in the region for local people, industry and agriculture.