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With new model, Bolivia can better address a growing water crisis

SEI researchers recently unveiled the first comprehensive model of Bolivia’s rivers, lakes and streams, as part of the Bolivia National Water Balance.

View of Huayna Potosi mountain in Cordillera Real near La Paz, Bolivia. Photo credit: Getty images / PytyCzech

Emily Yehle / Published on 6 December 2017

The model – which will be available to the public — provides a baseline of the country’s water resources so policy-makers can plan a sustainable future. Bolivia faces a deepening water crisis, thanks to shrinking glaciers, extreme droughts and management challenges. In 2016, the country declared a state of emergency because of water shortages; earlier this year, its capital city suffered an historic drought.

SEI created a platform in its Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP) that contains information about all available water supply in Bolivia, using data from field measurements and satellite records. It was done in collaboration with Bolivia’s Ministry of the Environment and Water (MMAYA), the Institute of Hydraulic and Hydrology from the San Andrés University, and the Laboratory of Hydrology from the University of San Simón.

SEI used new computational methods, including automatic catchment delineation and gridded climate data, to bring the data together in a WEAP platform that allows all stakeholders – from the public to decision-makers – to participate in the ongoing conversation over water management.

“This tool will help policy-makers look at the big picture and make evidence-based policy decisions,” said SEI Senior Scientist Marisa Escobar. “Climate change promises to deepen Bolivia’s water challenges, but these can be overcome through a participatory, data-rich approach to management.”

The public will be able to access WEAP’s Bolivia platform through a web system called “Geovisor.” Researchers will continue to update and refine an institutional platform, with the aim of improving both the input data and output information.

MMAYA organized a series of workshops in November – as well as a set of technical meetings – to get feedback on the platform. It was well-received, and the project is set to be finalized by the end of 2017.

Oscar Meave, MMAYA’s chief of special studies, said the project delivered “important results and information that is not only a report or a static estimate, but a tool that can be periodically updated.”

“This is the essence of the study, that the tool can be updated continuously with the technology used,” he said. “This is a very important step towards a true integrated watershed management in Bolivia.”

Learn more about WEAP

Read the Ministry of the Environment and Water’s update on the Bolivia National Water Balance (in Spanish)

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Topics and subtopics
Water : Planning and modelling, Water resources
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