For the past 30 years, a process of glacier retreat has been observed in the Andes, raising alarm among regional water resources managers. Building on the Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP), the authors modeled the role of Andean glaciers in the hydrology of their associated watersheds, aiming to create an analytical tool to assess the water management implications of possible future glacier retreat.

The study area is the Rio Santa watershed in Peru, which contains many of the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca. The specific objectives were to (i) adequately simulate both monitored glacier retreat and observed river flows from the last forty years using historical climate time series as model input; (ii) quantify the proportion of river flow in the Rio Santa produced from melting glaciers during this period; (iii) estimate the historical contribution of groundwater accretions to river flows; and (vi) reproduce a reasonable simulation of recent hydropower operations in the Rio Santa system.

The ultimate goal of the study was to demonstrate how this integrated modelling system can be used as a decision support tool to assist in planning water management adaptation to climate change. This sort of integrated assessment is required to adapt water resources management in the Andes to a range of future climatic conditions, improving the resilience of developing Andean economies such Peru’s in the face of climate change.

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