Peru's water crisis
While Peruvian infrastructure continues to improve, unequal access to safe drinking water remains a prominent issue. Peru’s water crisis affects up to 5 million citizens—15% of the country’s population. The government recognizes that to properly tackle this pressing issue, the country’s water scarcity crisis must be addressed. This matter is particularly important in the country’s capital, Lima. Lima is one of the world’s largest desert cities, and only receives nine millimeters of rain a year. Nearly 1.5 million citizens of the Greater Lima area lack running water.

The government has developed a goal to offer public drinking services to all such marginalized urban hotspots in need of water by 2021. Significant strides have been made since 2016 under the Kuczynski and Vizcarra administrations. However, with 9% of foreign investment now allocated to water and sanitation, the government also sees that public-private partnerships are key to increasing water supply. The Nature Conservancy, an international sustainability NGO,  has played a major role in combating the water shortage in Peru through innovative projects.

Reviving the Amuna Systems

There are increasing challenges to Peru’s water crisis—and therefore Lima’s water supply—that range from urbanization to climate change. In 2019, The Nature Conservancy revived a pre-Incan method of hydric regulation called “amunas” to alleviate the city’s distressing situation. Amunas are water systems that capture rainfall for use as potable drinking water.

Alongside the Caterpillar Foundation, NGO members are building canals that funnel flood rains into mountains rather than leave it to undergo natural processes of evaporation. Water will then gradually surface in springs, which is imperative for water distribution during Lima’s dry seasons.

The amunas recovery project is centered in the upper Rimac River Watershed, arguably Lima’s most important water supply. The increased amount of water in the soil has already resulted in the recuperation of 25 hectares of natural grasslands. Farmers located throughout the greater Lima area have benefited greatly from this endeavor.

Government Partnership

The Nature Conservancy is working in conjunction with the Peruvian government to develop an efficient tariff structure for funding infrastructure projects. This new water utility effort in Lima is called “Aquafondo.” The Nature Conservancy projects that by 2025, $25 million will be directed toward critical hydrological services. These changes address key issues, including as the region’s adaptation to climate change. In addition to Aquafondo, The Nature Conservancy is organizing water funds in the Peruvian cities of Piura and Cusco, both of which are also located in desert-like areas.


Peru’s water crisis remains a security issue that could impact the economic and personal development of millions of citizens. Environmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy play a pivotal role in ensuring improved water access for marginalized populations. The Nature Conservancy’s international efforts, ranging from improved infrastructure throughout Latin America to restoring wetlands in India, symbolize a greater effort toward water justice among powerful non-state parties.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

The World Bank Helped to Increase Water Reliability in LimaA sweaty man grabs a large plastic pipe on the back of a cab and starts to fill a series of plastic containers on the ground. Once he fills in one container, he holds out his hand to receive some coins from the owner and then goes away in his vehicle. This is a daily routine for tens of thousands of people who live around Lima.

Lima’s future water reliability is of great concern to the local government, the water utility company SEDAPAL and the people who live and work there. Recently, the World Bank helped the water utility company SEDAPAL plan for increased reliability in an uncertain future and saved the city more than $600 million.

The World Bank has completed SEDAPAL’s $2.7 billion master plan for water resources for 2040. The World Bank used state-of-the-art methods for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMU), investigating key questions such as could the proposed investments ensure reliability in the face of deep uncertainties? What if there are delays? What’s the best sequence so that investments ensure both “no regrets” and maximum future adaptability?

Through the study, the World Bank helped SEDAPAL revise its Master Plan of 14 large-scale investments by identifying projects that are adaptable as conditions evolve. After analyzing the 14 projects, the Bank found that 75 percent of the full $2.7 billion plan could meet water reliability targets, so the investment could be reduced to $2.0 billion. The study saved the city more than $600 million.

“We have to make decisions even when we don’t know the future,” said Laura Bonzanigo, World Bank economist specializing in DMU. “Through the DMU methodology, we can look at the range of possibilities and come up with minimum requirements to meet every possibility — robust decisions with no regrets.”

According to Bonzanigo, nowadays, utility companies are not only used for construction, such as pumping stations, dams, water treatment plans and tunnels through mountains but also are used to solve some valuable things, such as working with farmers and ranchers to make ecological investments in the upper watersheds.

In order to solve water utility problems, the utility company reaches out to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to protect watersheds and groundwater aquifers. It also works with consumers to use less water per household and explores ways to recycle water for parks. Engaging Peruvian NGOs is significant because they work closely with communities in the upper watershed management and environmental monitoring. Moreover, universities are important in helping SEDAPAL spread their methods through training.

SEDAPAL has requested further World Bank support. Decision-Making under Deep Uncertainty is an increasingly important tool for any sector’s long-term planning and investments. Based on the study in Lima, final workshop participants Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil have already approached the World Bank country offices to request support in the water sector.

In a new methodological book “Confronting Climate Uncertainty in Water Resource Planning and Project Design: The Decision Tree Framework,” the World Bank includes more information on the Lima water study to help program managers demonstrate the robustness of their projects.

Through state-of-the-art study, the World Bank helped SEDAPAL decide on its Master plan of increasing water utility in Lima and saved the city $600 million. It not only contributed to solving the problem of water utility in impoverished areas but also cut the unnecessary cost to the city.

Shengyu Wang

Sources: World Bank, BBC
Photo: Wikimedia