Rural communities meet to discuss solutions to water scarcity

10 July 2017

With demand for water ever in the ascendant and its supply strictly limited, it is no wonder that water usage is an issue that goes to the heart of many conflicts in today’s Peru. The problem of water shortage will only be accentuated as climate change further reduces rainfall in this (mostly) arid country.

Urban populations are constantly growing leading to ever greater consumption of water per head, agribusinesses need ever larger amounts of water, and extractive operations (principally mining and oil/gas) both put further strain on water supplies and have the effect (if not properly controlled) of polluting existing water courses.

In such circumstances, it tends to be those with least economic and political power that lose out as the competition for this vital resource becomes ever stiffer. These include the poorest in society: those peasant communities whose wherewithal depends on access to adequate water supplies, and poor urban communities who have to pay disproportionately for the water they receive.

The logic of marketization of water, privatising distribution companies and making people pay ‘market’ prices for what is widely perceived as a gift of nature, is a solution to the problem currently under consideration, but is likely once again to hit the poor disproportionately. It is likely to increase opposition to the government and its policies.

In these circumstances, the holding of a conference to debate alternatives which would help those at the bottom of the heap with respect to water is an important initiative. ‘Water Doesn’t Come out of the Tap: Look Upstream’ was the title of the get-together of small-scale rural water users from all over Peru, and it took place last week from 5 to 7 July in Lima.

The event brought together community leaders from all parts of the country, particularly from the highlands where water supplies are being diverted to supply urban users and largescale farming along the coast. Inaugurated by none other than Hugo Blanco, the legendary leader of peasant uprisings in the 1960s, the meeting sought both to identify proposals for change and methods by which that change can be brought about.

While the first day was dedicated in part to looking at water management within watersheds, the second focused more on such thematic issues as criminalisation of protest over water, the impact of climate change, women and water, contamination and the institutional management of water (and its deficiencies).

The event was remarkable for the personal stories of those for whom water scarcity is an ever-growing problem. With the Kuczynski administration elected on promises to resolve problems of water shortage for Peru’s most disadvantaged communities, little has been achieved in its first year in office. The conclusions from ‘Water Doesn’t Come out of the Tap’ provide it with a good deal of food for thought.

All articles

  • Historical Overview

    Over the past century Peru has suffered a series of autocratic governments and a civil war in which nearly 70,000 people died. Many of the country's ongoing political and social problems are a legacy of its somewhat turbulent past. 

  • Human Rights

    Human rights violations were widespread during the twenty years after the initiation of armed conflict in 1980. Efforts to convict perpetrators since the war's end have made only limited progress. Today, concerns remain over the treatment of those engaged in social protest, particularly against strategically important investment projects.

  • Climate Change

    Two important reports on the impacts of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC ) Special Report on Emissions Scenarios and the Stern Review, place Peru as one of the countries that will be most affected by the effects of climate change.

  • Why join the PSG?

    • Keep up to date with latest news and developments in Peru
    • Learn about key issues of poverty, development and human rights in Peru
    • Support the work of the Peru Support Group

    Become a member