Versión en español

This brief puts forward ways to tackle the region’s looming water crisis in terms of conservation and recycling methods, and makes recommendations for policy-makers for managing water in Bolivia, which are could also apply to other climate stressed regions.

El Alto is a bustling city that sits high on the Andean plains next to and above Bolivia’s capital city, La Paz, which spreads out in a bowl beneath it. The altitude, bitter cold and dry air make it a harsh climate to live in; nevertheless it has become one of the fastest-growing cities in Latin America as indigenous peoples have left rural areas to seek employment and livelihoods.

Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, and El Alto is the poorest city in Bolivia, and by 2009 demand for water in El Alto had already outstripped supply, a situation that could become a lot worse in the face of demographic pressures: for example, El Alto is predicted to double in population to two million people by 2050.

Bolivia cannot rely on new sources to resolve its water crisis, given both the costs and also the potential range of climate change impacts. In the most pessimistic of climate change scenarios, the new water sources proposed for the watersheds of Khara Khota and Taypicacha could see reductions of 37.14% and 28.79%, respectively. Other conservation and recycling methods will be essential for El Alto and La Paz to build the resilience of their water systems to climate change.

In this brief SEI sets out to identify the most robust options for water management – in El Alto and beyond – in coming years.

Download the discussion brief (PDF, 1.7MB)