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Editorial Coordination:
Mexican Academy of Sciences
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María Luisa Torregrosa y Armentia

Blanca Jiménez-Cisneros (Mexican Academy of Sciences)
José Galizia-Tundisi (Brazilian Academy of Sciences)

Translation into English: Mexican Academy of Sciences

Imelda Paredes (Mexican Academy of Sciences)
Ixchel Obregón

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AMC, June 2013

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Interamerican Network of Academies of Sciences, IANAS and Foro Consultivo
Científico y Tecnológico, A. C., in March 2012.
This book provides, for the first time, an assessment of water resources in the
Americas. We report the diagnosis of 15 countries.

Water is vital for human life, we use water to drink, to grow our food, to clean up
our environment, we use it as a way of transport, for power generation, and a for
thousands of other purposes. Water resources are limited and are also unevenly
distributed in the regions of the world.

In America, the Atacama region in Chile is famous for an almost total absence
of rain, in the same sense, the communities of the arid deserts in southwestern
North America, are engaged in a constant battle against lack of water for human
life. In contrast, other regions such as the Amazon basin are equally famous for
its abundance of water, however; even that abundance can be threatened by
changing weather patterns.

There is one fact about water that stands above among any other: the current
patterns of water used are unsustainable in many regions of the world, including
major portions of the American continent.
One of the greatest challenges of the XXI century will be to improve our
management and use of water, to ensure that this critical resource supports a
world population of nine billion or more in 2050. A substantial contribution to
overcome this challenge is the effective use of science to improve the use of our
water resources

The effective use of science means not only to create new knowledge, but also
to translate this scientific knowledge towards the open public, so that new
technologies and new concepts can be implemented quickly.

This volume is the result of a project of the “Water Network” which is part of the
“Inter-American Network of Academies of Science” (IANAS). Our organization
is the network of science academies on the American Continent, created from
the initiative and the spirit encouraged by the operation of the “Inter-Academic
Panel” (IAP), which brings together more than one hundred national science
academies worldwide.

IANAS members are all the countries that have established an academy of
sciences. IANAS’s mission is to foster cooperation between the academies of
sciences and promote their participation as relevant actors in the development
of the countries of the region. IANAS bases its operation on programs. The Water
Program completes its first stage with the publication of this volume: Diagnosis
of water in the Americas. The diagnosis of each country is the result of the work
of scientific networks in each of the member academies of IANAS. This work
was coordinated by José Galizia Tundisi from Brazil, and Blanca Jiménez from
Mexico. Both of them co-chair the program.
IANAS can quickly establish connections between scientists who have the best
current scientific information and those instances in each country that requires
it for decision making. One of the goals of IANAS is to provide fundamental
information to the involved authorities to undertake actions to properly allocate
water resources. We also identified opportunities in the design of new processes
that improve water use in order to achieve sustainability in the long term. Finally,
we recommend contacting the national academies of sciences in the Americas
as partners to provide expert advice to decision-makers, locally and nationally.
We thank all of our American Continent scientists who participated carrying
out this volume; as well as to the global network of science academies (IAP) for
providing their financial support. Also to the Mexican Academy of Sciences and
the Institute of Engineering of the National Autonomous University of Mexico
for editing, printing and distributing this book.

Congratulations on this cherished effort

Michael Clegg and Juan Pedro Laclette

Co-Chairs of IANAS
June 2013
Availability of good quality water in extended amounts is a key element to
economically and socially develop continents, countries and regions.

The American continent hosts a diverse group of countries which have

geographical, historical, economic, social and ecological differences, generating
different structures of water resource’s availability and management.

In these countries and regions, water can be abundant, scarce or even rare. The
multiple uses of water in agriculture, industry or domestic supply, is a complex
matter that requires implementing an integrated handling which is difficult to
accomplish. Also, since human activities have a daily impact on surface and
underground water and given the high rate of worldwide urbanization; the
availability of the resource is deteriorated on daily bases by pollution and fatigue
causing a severe negative effect to the public health and to the ecosystems; thus
creating a serious safety problem for the entire world.

We hope that the inputs presented in this book, be representative of the diversity
in the availability of water, pollution problems and public policy strategies on
the continent. The policy of water management change considerably in the
countries: laws and public policies are diverse and are found at different stages
of development. The comparative description of the status of water policy
and its availability or lack of it in such different countries will certainly be useful
information to increase the exchange of policies and technical experiences.

The editors are confident that this book will be very useful to strengthen the
study of water resources in the different countries of the American continent,
providing in this context its share to the development of public policies.

The editors thank extensively the efforts of all the authors of this text as well
as those who participated as coordinators of national texts as members of the
IANAS Water Network. Blanca Jiménez-Cisneros PhD and José Galizia-Tundisi
PhD, thank the Mexican Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences
and the IANAS Directive Committee for their support in the production of this
text. The editors also acknowledge the support of the Engineering Institute of
the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Blanca Jiménez-Cisneros
Co-Chair Water Program

José Galizia-Tundisi
Co-Chair Water Program
June 2013
In 2002, the Mexican Academy of Sciences (MAS) established specialized
committees to undertake studies on various key issues and make
recommendations to guide decision-making at various levels of government.
In particular, it created the Water Committee, a working group designed to use
scientific knowledge to achieve the sustainable, integral use of water, thereby
enhancing citizens’ well-being. Mexico, like many other countries, faces several
water-related problems including shortages, pollution, the need for improved
administration coupled with the lack of ecological management and the impact
of climate change on the hydrological cycle.

In November 2007, the Inter-American Network of Academies of Sciences

(IANAS), created the Water Program, since access to clean water is one of the
main problems facing mankind. The problem has been exacerbated by a long
history of excessive, inappropriate water use, pollution and increased demand.

Poor water resource management is one of the main causes of the loss of
opportunities for the sustainable development of several countries and the
Academies of Science comprising IANAS consider that this complex situation
requires scientific and technological action and effective management that
will contribute to better use of existing supplies, permit the recovery and
conservation of degraded areas and groundwater reserves and develop public
policies to ensure the necessary water resources for future generations. Together,
the Academies constitute an excellent forum for the dissemination of quality
information and serve as an expert interlocutor for supporting decision-makers
at the national and regional level.

Within this framework, the “Diagnosis of Water in the Americas” was developed,
in which each Academy provided a strategic overview of the water resources of
its respective country. The documents were prepared by multidisciplinary experts
and make a valuable contribution to the debate on water policies in the Americas.
We obviously have top-level scientists and technologists who provide solutions
to the problems of the region and I am confident that this joint assessment will
be vital to addressing the challenge of water for the future of the planet.

The book condenses the opinions and knowledge of 68 experts from 15

countries, coordinated by Dr. Blanca Jiménez-Cisneros of the Water Committee
of the Mexican Academy of Sciences and Dr. José Galizia-Tundisi of the Brazilian
Academy of Sciences, who jointly coordinate the IANAS Water Program. Thanks
and congratulations are due to all the authors.
José Franco
Mexican Academy of Sciences
June 2013


ARGENTINA ........................................................................................................................17
1. Introduction
2. Context
3. The Sustainability of the Use of Hydric Resources; General Situation
and Outlook
4. Emerging Water - Related Issues
5. Hydric Resources in Argentina
6. Interjurisdictional and International Hydric Resources (Appendix I)
7. Legal- Administrative Framework for Water in the Argentine Republic
(Appendix II)
8. Glossary
9. Acronyms
10. References


ASSOCIATED WITH TRANSBOUNDARY WATERS ................................................91
1. Introduction
2. Water Availability in Bolivia
3. Availability of Surface Water
4. Availability of Underground Water in Bolivia
5. Issues related to Transboundary Surface Waters
6. Issues related to Transboundary Underground Water
7. References

WATER POLICY IN BRAZIL ...........................................................................................119

1. Introduction
2. Water Resources in Brazil
3. Water Uses
4. Multiple Water Uses and Conflicts
5. The Water Quality in Brazil
6. The Institutional Development of Water Resources Management
7. Challenges for the Water Policy in Brazil
8. Conclusions
9. References


1. Introduction
2. Overall Water Situation in Canada
3. Water Governance within Canada and Internationally
4. Strategic Regional Water Problems in Canada
5. Water Problems Occurring in many Regions in Canada
6. Recommendations for Alleviating Canada’s Strategic Water Problems
7. Websites
8. References
9. Acknowledgements

THE WATER SECTOR IN CHILE: STATUS AND CHALLENGES ............................................. 213

1. Introduction
2. Water Resources Availability
3. Water Uses
4. Water and Society
5. Conclusions
6. Acknowledgements
7. References


1. Introduction
2. The Colombian Territory
3. Colombian Hydrological Resources –General Aspects
4. Hydrologic Balance
5. Reservoirs and Wetlands
6. Other Resources (flood zones, swamps, glaciers, paramos)
7. Groundwater
8. Colombian Coastal Areas
9. Use of Water
10. Quality of Water
11. Vulnerability of Watersheds
12. Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation
13. Water and Human Health
14. Supply and Demand Projections for 2015 and 2025
15. Water, Energy and Environmental Impact
16. Governance of Water
17. Water Policies and Legislation in Colombia
18. Threats to Water in Colombia
19. Potential uses and Administration Mechanisms for Water in Colombia
20. Conclusions
21. References

WATER RESOURCES IN COSTA RICA: A STRATEGIC VIEW ................................................ 281

1. Introduction
2. Background
3. National Fresh Water Resources and Use
4. Water Balance
5. National Water Uses
6. Water and the Environment
7. Drinking Water, Sanitation and Health
8. Land Use: Deforestation and Soil Degradation
9. Laws and Institutions Concerned with Water
10. Integrated Water Resources Managing and Planning
11. Conclusions
12. Acknowledgments
13. References
WATER RESOURCES IN CUBA: AN OVERVIEW ...................................................................... 305
1. Introduction
2. Water Uses. Assigned Percentages for each Use
3. Water and Agriculture
4. Water and Industry
5. Water for Human Consumption. Quantity, Quality and Access
6. Terrestrial Waters Quality
7. Water in Urban Areas
8. Water and Sanitation. Wastewater Sanitation
9. Water and Human Health
10. Water and Economy
11. Water for Energy and Impact of Dams
12. Flood and Drought. Intensity, Impacts on Human Health and Economy
13. Legislation
14. Water Conflicts
15. Water Governability
16. Global Change Scenarios
17. Water, Culture and Religion
18. References


1. Introduction
2. Subterranean Waters of the Eastern Coastal Plains
3. Quality of the Subterranean Waters of the Coastal Plain
4. The Conflict Society Government for the Protection of Water in los Haitises
5. Organic Contamination of Surface and Subterranean Waters
6. Water and Cholera in the Dominican Republic in 2011
7. Dams and their Social and Environmental Conflicts
8. The Social and Environmental Problem of the Rising of the Waters of Lago
9. The Problem of Garbage that Contaminates Water
10. The Church, Water and the Environment
11. Water Contamination Due to Mining Operation

STATE OF WATER IN GUATEMALA ........................................................................................... 353

1. Introduction
2. Availability and Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Water
3. Water Balance 2005
4. Water Balance and Scenarios to 2025
5. Water and Agriculture
6. Water and Industry
7. Human Water Supply: Quantity, Quality and Access
8. Pollution
9. Water in Urban Areas
10. Water and Sanitation
11. Water and Public Health
12. Water and Economy
13. Water and Energy
14. Floods and Droughts
15. Legislation
16. Conflicts
17. Governance
18. Due to Global Change Scenarios
19. Water, Culture and Religion
20. References

WATER RESOURCES IN MEXICO: SITUATION AND PROSPECTS .................................... 395

1. Introduction
2. General Information about the Country
3. Historical Background
4. Availability
5. Uses
6. Water and Energy
7. Quality of Water
8. Sources of Contamination
9. Reuse
10. Effects on Health
11. Economic Development
12. Gender and Water
13. Poverty
14. Water and Indigenous Population
15. Transboundary Water
16. Climate Change
17. Extreme Contingencies
18. Water Management
19. Legal Framework
20. References

WATER RESOURCES IN NICARAGUA: A STRATEGIC OVERVIEW .................................... 461

1. Introduction
2. Hydric Resources in Nicaragua
3. Uses of Water
4. The Environmental Situation of Hydric Resources
5. Water and Sanitation
6. Climate Change
7. Water and Health
8. Legal Framework
9. References

WATER RESOURCES IN PERU: A STRATEGIC VIEW ............................................................. 519

1. Introduction
2. Hydric Resources
3. Water Uses in Peru
4. Environmental Issues and Water Pollution
5. Water and Society
6. Extreme Events: Floods and Droughts in Peru - Reducing the Risk of Disaster of
Climatic Origin.
7. Institutional Framework
8. Recent Efforts in Water Resources Research in Peru
9. Conclusions and Recommendations
10. Acknowledgements
11. References

1. Introduction
2. The Occurrence and Availability of Water
3. Water Use
4. Water Resources Research in the United States
5. Major Water Issues Facing the U.S.
6. References

WATER MANAGEMENT IN VENEZUELA: GENERAL ASPECTS ........................................... 553

1. Introduction
2. Hydric Resources
3. Venezuela in the World
4. Reservoirs in Venezuela
5. Some Problems Related with Water Management
6. Legal Instruments and some Regulatory Standards for Water Management in
7. Institutions Related with Water Management and Research
8. Examples of Practices related with the Water Management and Quality in
9. Conclusions
10. Acknowledgements
11. References
Glacier Perito Moreno

Considerations and effective functioning of systems for data

collection and the subsequent gathering

on the Situation of and spreading of much needed on-going

and systematic information. The purpose of

Water Resources in these activities is to cooperate with public

and private decision-makers to diagnose

and evaluate alternatives that promote
agreements on priority workable proposals.
In this way, it will be possible to back the
“And time, irreversible, that hurts us and flees,
water, is nothing more than one of your metaphors”.
prompt and adezquate assignment of budget
J. L. Borges (“Poem for the Fourth Element”, 1964). resources and legitimate complementary
income to develop policies and projects that
José María Dagnino Pastore1, Adolfo harmoniously sustain the achievement of two
Sturzenegger1, Eduardo H. Charreau2, Oscar basic objectives: to satisfy the social function
Vardé3, Conrado Bauer3 y Pablo Bereciartúa1 of water (equity) and allow its productive
use (growth) and thus contribute to the
Academia Nacional de Ciencias Económicas
sustainable and comprehensive development
of the country.
Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas, Fisi-
cas y Naturales The international acknowledgement of water
as the essential support for life and its future
Academia Nacional de Ingeniería
is unanimous. This entails the pressing need
to care for its management, quality and
1. Introduction rational use, and consequently to protect its
The National Academies sponsoring the natural cycle and the ecosystems of surface
present work have summoned a group of and groundwater basins, as well as expand
university professionals concerned with the and consolidate the services that purify
problems regarding water in Argentina. and provide safe water, collect, treat and
They have been dedicated to analyzing the dispose of wastewaters and prevent flooding
situation, gathering part of the generally and droughts. The activities mentioned
disperse and discontinuous information are fundamental world-wide elements for
available until 2008/2010, and have put promoting health and the social integration
forward their opinions in this outreach project. and development of all nations. The
Our intention is to point out the importance of “United Nations Conference for Sustainable
the issues regarding water in our country and Development” held in Johannesburg in 2002,
the need to adopt the most urgent measures placed water first when identifying the five
required by the current situation. At the same issues to receive priority attention.
time, we intend to promote the short term
expansion of work programs that facilitate Each country, including Argentina, must
analysis and drive comprehensive organization commit especially to plan and bring about
actions that lead to enabling appropriate In conclusion, the objective is directed to
water availability and its more sensible, reveal relevant aspects of the issue in an
rational and fair use, ensuring the continuity orderly manner, as a summary, as a reminder
and preservation of a supply that satisfies not of basic information and as a reference
only human needs regarding quantity, quality, contribution to move forward on ideas and
time and place, but also productive activities, proposals that allow the establishment of
ecosystem conservation and biodiversity. priorities for action in order to face current and
future challenges in our country. The following
The adoption and fulfillment of these objectives persons have coordinated the production of
are a responsibility shared by governments, the report and proposals “The Issue of Water”:
businessmen, specialized professionals, the ex-president of the Academia Nacional
technicians and workers, as well as the general de Ciencias Económicas (National Academy
population; their knowledge regarding the for Economic Sciences) José María Dagnino
importance of water and the urgent need Pastore, PhD and its current president Adolfo
to preserve its proper use must constitute Sturzenegger, PhD; in collaboration with the
the necessary support that will allow to president of the Academia Nacional de Ciencias
make reasonable proposals for policies and Exactas, Físicas y Naturales (National Academy
actions and put them into practice. With for Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences)
such broad participation, it will be possible to Eduardo H. Charreau, PhD; and the support
make general, regional and sectoral interests for publication and diffusion of the report
compatible, and to promote the appropriate from Oscar Verde, president of the Academia
legislation, management, execution and Nacional de Ingeniería (National Academy for
updating of structural measures (physical Engineering).
works) and non-structural measures (systems
for training, setting rates, regulating, controlling The list of professionals who have personally
and diffusion). These actions will encourage and participated in the development of the report
enable effective water governance. includes Conrado Bauer, Gustavo Devoto and
Luis U. Jáuregui, hydraulic and civil engineers
Since 2008, the authors have met periodically from the National Academy of Engineering;
to promote and organize the content and Pablo Bereciartúa, hydraulic and civil engineer;
design of this document. They have been Emilio Lentini and Juan Antonio Zapata. PhD.,
through the information available, even when specialists in economics; and Mario Valls PhD.,
it has been incomplete, and have come up expert in water law. We finally express our
with and discussed proposals which have acknowledgement regarding the contributions
led to the publication of this study as an on water management of Javier Pascuchi and
additional contribution for the outreaching the special contributions of the civil engineering
and analysis of the problems created by Luciana Manzelli, Federica Brenner and
the use of water. It is not only directed to Augusto Mercadier, economists, and Susana
specialists in the subject, but also to the press D.R. Savoia, PhD. (Technical Secretary of the
and for distribution to the general public. National Academy for Economic Sciences).
2. Context “the issue of water”. Within the context of
Water has become a critical resource for the paradigm of sustainable development, it
the development of societies in the XXIst is necessary to come up with strategies that
century, to the extent that when the 2002 are focused on reducing the gaps between
UN Conference for Sustainable Development a growing demand (that requires increasing
in Johannesburg selected the five most rationality and control) and the capacity to
important topics necessary for sustainable satisfy it. Therefore it is necessary to consider
development, it placed water at the top of the the issue of water within the concept of
list, as mentioned in the foreword. Previously integrated management of hydric resources.
in 1993, the United Nations had established
the 22 of March as “WORLD WATER DAY” to 2.1 Objectives
represent the importance of the issue and its Based on the collection and analysis of the
continuous renovation. information available on a worldwide, regional
and national scale, the following aspects have
In a more general framework, the concern over been developed in the present work:
water results from two tendencies: a) rapid • To identify the main topics related to the
growth of demand brought about by an increase “issue of water”, and its global and regional
in population, growing economic development situation, particularly in Latin America
and a more concentrated urban population, (points 3 and 4), with brief references to
all of which stimulate the demand to satisfy its our country.
various uses, no matter if they regard basic vital • To present the specific characteristics of
needs, food production, hygiene, conservation each one of these topics in Argentina, so as
of the environment, or development in its to offer elements that describe their current
broadest sense; b) a simultaneous increase in situation and recent evolution (point 5.1).
the factors that limit the quantity and quality of • To create of a series of conclusions that
the water supply: while the quantity available is lay down current and future challenges, as
determined by the characteristics of ecosystems well as certain actions that are considered a
and the hydrological cycle in each geographical priority to meet them (points 5.2 and 5.3).
area, quality decreases due to contamination
and poor practices. These tendencies result 3. The Sustainability of the Use
in the obvious gaps that grow between the of Hydric Resources; General
needs that must be satisfied and the hydric Situation and Outlook.
resources apt to meet them. Although these 3.1 Evaluation of the Availability
circumstances are present world-wide, they of Hydric Resources
present specific conditions in each region and 3.1.1 Water in the World
every country. The world contains a large amount of available
In recent years, and in response to the water, although it is unevenly distributed in
evidence of the challenges mentioned time and space. It is found naturally in several
above, there has been a growing awareness states: solid, liquid and gas, within different
regarding this matter, which can be called positions in the air, on the Earth’s surface,
underground and in the oceans, and has a
variable content of salts (FIG. 1.) (Ramsar,

Worldwide, the annual average precipitation

is 119,000 km3 of which nearly 72,000 km3
evaporate into the atmosphere. The remaining
47,000 km3 flow into lakes, reservoirs and
water currents or they filter into the land,
partially feeding aquifers. It is calculated that AND CROPS”, ONU 2002.
between 9,000 km3 and 14,000 km3 of water FIG. 1. Global Distribution of Water in the World
can be used by man (Table 1).
water are natural aspects that make sustainable
Annual water extraction for human use development of hydric resources difficult.
reaches 3,600 km3 while rivers require 2,350 Likewise, water resources are influenced
km3 to maintain minimum ecological flow, by the following main anthropic factors:
therefore, 5,950 km3 of the easily available population growth, especially in areas where
water resources are committed. This shows water is scarce; major demographic changes
how fragile the situation is, considering regarding distribution and concentration of
demographic projections and water demand the population, as when people move from
as well as accessibility and geographic location rural to urban areas; greater demand for food
of the surplus (FAO, 2002). Hydric resources are security and socioeconomic wellbeing; greater
under the pressure of a combination of natural competition between users, and industrial,
and human factors. Climate change and the municipal and agricultural pollution.
ordinary variation in geographical distribution of
Table 1. The Average Annual Precipitation in the World

Region Precipitation Evapotranspiration Surplus

mm/year km3/year mm/year km3/year mm/year km3/year
Europe 700 8.290 507 5.230 283 2.970
Asia 740 32.200 416 18.100 324 14.100
Africa 740 22.300 587 17.700 153 4.600
North America 756 18.300 418 10.100 339 8.180
South America 1600 28.400 910 16.200 685 12.200

Oceania 791 7.080 511 4.570 280 2.510

165 2.310 0 0 165 2.310
Total 800 119.000 485 72.000 315 47.000

* Rebouças, Aldo C. et al. “Aguas dulces em Brasil. São Paulo”, Escrituras Editora, 1999
3.1.2 Water in Latin America 3.1.3 Water in Argentina
Latin America is one of the regions with the Argentina’s water resources are distributed
greatest wealth in hydric resources, holding irregularly, two thirds of its territory is
26% of the world’s water and only 6% of its arid and semi-arid and only one third is
population, while in contrast Asia concentrates rich in water sources, most of which are
30% of available water and 60% of the world’s surface waters which represent 84% of the
population. Nevertheless, Latin America faces available water in the country.
serious issues with respect to water supply: it
contains some of the most humid areas on Earth The uncontrolled growth of industrial
and some of the driest deserts, water sources are and productive uses and the untreated
polluted to an important degree and in recent wastewater they discharge, together
decades, the region has been going through with the disorganized development of
intense urbanization. Two thirds of the land important marginal human settlements,
in Latin America is arid or semiarid, including have provoked considerable deterioration
great extensions in the center and north of of hydric resources as a consequence of
Mexico, northeast Brazil, northwest Argentina, inadequate exploitation and the dumping
northern Chile and areas in Bolivia and Peru. It is or infiltration of all kinds of contaminating
estimated that one fourth of the Latin American substances. This has brought about issues
population –more than 100 million people– live related to the development of aquatic life,
in areas under water stress, mainly in Mexico, increase in the cost of water purification,
Argentina and the countries located along the appearance of water-borne diseases or an
western coast of the continent (PNUMA, 1999). increase in their incidence, and a decline
in conditions for the development of
The fact that Latin America is the region with recreational activities.
the greatest water availability per capita
does not imply that there are no populations Overall, Argentina’s average annual hydric
suffering from serious water scarcity. The supply per inhabitant is greater than 20,000 m3/
region is becoming more dependent on inhab., much higher than the threshold for water
the use of its groundwater sources: South stress adopted by the UNDP (United Nations
America obtains 40 to 60% of its water from Program for Development) of 1,000 m3/inhab.
below the surface, while Central America and Nevertheless, in spite of this important water
Mexico depend 65% on these sources. In supply and because it is concentrated in the
Mexico for example, 102 out of 653 aquifers area corresponding to the Rio de la Plata basin,
are over-exploited. With a population there is a serious imbalance between potential
demanding more basic services and a model demand and availability in wide regions in the
for economic development based on the country (Table 2).
exploitation of raw materials, Latin America In addition to water quantity, it is relevant to
is headed towards the worsening of its consider the quality of available water. In a great
problems regarding exploitation of its water part of Argentina, for example, groundwater is
sources (Tribunal Latinoamericano del Agua). affected by high concentrations of arsenic and

Table 2 . Imbalance Between Potential Demand and Availability in Wide Regions in the Country

Region Problem

Arid and Semi-arid Water deficit due to scarcity and seasonal variations of supply.
Limit to the favorable possibilities for development of agricultural
products of high relative value.
Conflict due to over-exploitation of aquifers.
Loss of productive capacity due to salinization.

Humid and Sub-humid Decline in water quality due to pollution of surface and groundwaters
caused by discharge of untreated wastewaters.
High amounts of salts, excess arsenic and fluorine (north and central
Pampa regions) or low power in aquifers.

fluorine. Likewise, in the main metropolitan lacks access to water in minimally satisfactory
and industrial areas, and particularly in the conditions and 50% has no adequate sanitary
Metropolitan Area of the city of Buenos Aires facilities (WHO, 2008).
(AMBA - Área Metropolitana de la Ciudad
de Buenos Aires) there are serious levels of International norms established by agencies
pollution in surface and groundwater resources, such as the World Health Organization (WHO)
which force investment in costly treatment. and the United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF) suggest a minimum amount of water
In summary, the availability and demand per person of 20 liters per day found within
of water resources in Argentina are highly a distance of one kilometer from the user’s
diverse, and in order for the nation to satisfy dwelling. This amount is sufficient for drinking
its potential and desirable uses, it faces and basic personal hygiene. People who lack
important challenges with respect to water access to this amount of water are limited in
management and quality, as well as its spatial their ability to maintain their well-being and the
and temporal availability. It is necessary to dignity involved in being clean. The minimal
perform analysis and studies that not only amount of water per person increases to nearly
consider overall data, but also the variable 50 liters a day if water needs for personal and
quantity and quality of water needs and domestic washing are included.
availability in every basin and sub-basin.
Water consumption varies between 200 and
3.2 Uses Given to Hydric Resources 300 liters per person per day (l/p/d) in most
3.2.1 Description of the Main Sectors European countries and reaches up to 550
and Activities liters per day in some areas in the United
Water and Sanitation States. In contrast, a large portion of the world’s
During the past century, the use of drinking population is found extremely below the
water increased twice as fast as the number minimum basic water needs, not just temporarily
of inhabitants. Nevertheless, it is estimated but permanently. There are 1,100 million
that 20% of the world’s population currently people that live more than one kilometer away
from a water source and use less than 5 liters of not guarantee the separation of wastes from
unsafe water (UNPD, 2006). The average use in human contact) and the remaining 17%
countries such as Mozambique for example, is resorted to open-air defecation.
less than 10 liters per person per day. People in
less developed countries with difficult access to In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean,
improved water sources tend to consume less 80% of the population had access to improved
water because they must travel long distances sanitation, 14% used non-improved facilities
to get to the source, or they must pay excessive and 6% practiced open-air defecation, while
amounts of money to obtain it. average sanitation coverage by connection to
a public network within urban populations in
On a global scale, in 2008 it was estimated that Latin America was 57% (BM, 2009).
57% of the world’s population had a piped
connection within their home or plot and Argentine Republic
30% had access to an improve source (tap or It is considered that 80% of the population in
public source), thus 87%, or approximately 5.9 Argentina has a home connection to a clean
million people used clean water or improved water network, and only 47% has a home
sources, which implies an increase of 1,800 connection to a network of sanitary sewers;
million since 1990. However it is worth noting although this percentage increases to 90%
that nearly 1,000 million people lack access to if improved sanitation services are included.
water with minimal conditions of quantity and Only 12% of collected wastewaters are
quality, and if we add families with access to treated before returning them to receiving
water only through an improved source that bodies of water.
does not comply with clean water standards,
the number grows to 3,000 million. It has been calculated that the national
average drinking water production per
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the person is 400 liters per day, although it varies
average piped-water service coverage is widely between one province and another
84%, while other improved sources represent from a maximum of 650 l/p/d in San Juan to a
9%. Within the region, Uruguay (98%) and minimum of 170 l/p/d in La Pampa.
Chile (93%) have the highest coverage rate
per network, while Argentina stands at 80%. Non-revenue water is one of the main
problems concerning efficiency in drinking
Regarding sanitation services worldwide, water services. It is estimated that 35 to
the average access to improved systems 40% of the water produced is lost within
(facilities that guarantee no contact between the network and is under-billed because of
people and human feces) for the year 2008 clandestine connections and poor updating of
was 61%, while 11% used some form of user registry. Thus average water consumed
shared sanitation (improved sanitation with in Argentina is estimated at around 250 l/p/d,
shared use of facilities, including public with maximum rates of up to 400 l/p/d.
toilets), 11% used non-improved forms (do Compared to many countries in the world and
in Latin America, Argentina’s high water use their renewable hydric resources are assigned
can be mostly explained by the low degree to to agricultural use. Alternatively, a country
which water use is micro-measured and the is considered to be in a situation of water
prevalence of “free-faucet” type billing in the stress if it uses more than 20% of its hydric
Argentinian system, especially in the majority resources. According to this criterion, 36 out
of large-city services. In this respect, and of 159 countries (23%) suffered water stress in
according to international records, average 1998 (FAO,1995).
consumption of water registered by micro-
measurement systems is found generally to Both Latin America and Argentina have
be below 200 l/p/d. an average water extraction for irrigation
of less than 5% of their total renewable
Water and Agriculture water resources.
Although the global demographic rate is
falling, the number of persons that become Water and Industry
part of the world’s population every year Industry is an important user of water
is approximately 75 million. As population resources and because of its high participation
increases, hydric resources available per in the gross internal product (GIP) it is the
capita become more restricted and it greatest contributor to the economic and
becomes necessary to increase agricultural social development of nations. To guarantee
productivity. In order to satisfy the estimated industrial development, there must be access
growth in food demand between 2000 and to an adequate supply of water on the one
2030 in developing countries, a 67% increase hand, and a commitment to use water
in food crop production is anticipated. efficiently and not return potentially polluting
Likewise, the continuous improvement in untreated wastewater to nature on the other.
productivity should allow an expected 14%
growth in agricultural use of water (UN, 2006). Depending on the region, the negative
impact of industry on aquatic environments
Irrigation consumes most of the water is of greater concern than the volume it
extracted as a result of evaporation effectively uses. Water quality is deteriorating
processes, passage of water into plant in many lakes and rivers worldwide, and the
tissues and transpiration in crops. Water marine environment is also being affected by
that is extracted but not consumed industrial pollution (UN, 2006). In low to mid-
recharges aquifers or evaporates. Globally, income countries, a large part of industrial
more than 65% of extracted water is used activity is accompanied by unnecessarily high
for irrigation (FIG. 2). levels of water use and pollution. Industrial use
of water increases according to the income
The intensive use of water for agriculture can of a country, varying from 10% in low to mid-
create great tension on water resources. Fig. income nations, to 59% in countries with high
2 shows that close to 20 countries worldwide income. In developing countries, an estimated
are in a critical situation, as more than 40% of 70% of liquid industrial wastes are discharged


FIG. 2 . Areas Under Irrigation in the World (2000)

into bodies of water (rivers, lakes, oceans) and feasible are essential. There is a wide
without purifying treatment (UNESCO, 2003). variety of instruments (normative, voluntary
FIG. 3 is a general representation of the initiatives, training activities) and consultancy
distribution of water uses worldwide per low, available to help industrial managers
mid and high income nations. improve the productivity of water use and
reduce contaminant emissions to extremely
The annual water volume used by industry is low levels. At the same time, these actions
expected to increase from 752 km3/year (as can help production efficiency, as well as
measured in 1995) to an estimated 1,170 km3/ reduce the use of raw materials, facilitate the
year for the year 2025, and industrial use is recovery of useful substances and promote
expected to represent 24% of the total fresh the growth of reuse and recycling practices.
water extracted in 2025 (UNESCO, 2003).
Water and Energy
Nevertheless, it is possible to separate The world’s hydropower potential is
industrial development from environmental approximately equal to the total energy
deterioration, radically reduce the use consumed at present, although only one fourth
of natural resources and energy and of this potential is actually used. Consequently to
simultaneously have clean and profitable this day, hydropower is an important alternative
industries. With the proper incentives, it is to the use of fossil fuels. It is estimated that more
estimated that industrial water demand can than 50% of the energy used in 65 countries is
be reduced 40 to 90%, even with the existing hydroelectric, in 32 countries it is 80% and in 13
techniques and practices. For these purposes nations nearly 100% of their energy is supplied
water conservation policies that are both fair by hydroelectricity.

FIG. 3. Water Uses

The fact that 1/3 of the world’s population Hydropower implies a very low operating
still has no access to electricity is an incentive cost, although it requires an important initial
to consider the alternative of hydroelectricity. investment.
However, when potential projects and their
design are to be considered, it is vital to Asia is by far the continent with the greatest
contemplate the possible negative impact hydroelectric resources and the one which
on the environment of each one and plan to maintains the most aggressive policy
minimize it. regarding development of hydroelectricity.
Although South America follows Asia, with
Hydropower is the most widely tested respect to hydropower resources, they
technology for the large scale generation of are mostly concentrated in Brazil and are
electricity: it does not contaminate water; growing much less rapidly. Europe, North
does not consume the resource; produces America and Australia, in that order, have
no waste materials and consequently no installed a good part of their potential, while
greenhouse gases; has the highest yield of in Africa the development of hydropower is
all technologies (greater than 90%); uses still an unresolved issue, as are many other
a renewable resource; directly produces development indicators.
mechanical energy instead of heat, can be
obtained by means of machines of many It must be pointed out that in spite of all
different sizes, and generates a group of the advantages mentioned in the previous
positive externalities. In addition, investment paragraph, special attention must be placed
in hydropower works that are adequately on hydropower’s negative effect on the
designed and operated allows satisfaction environment. This means that the viability
of other water uses, such as irrigation, of any hydroelectric project must include a
supply of drinking and industrial water, very meticulous assessment of environmental
navigation, fishing, and flood control, as impact. If this assessment is positive, it must be
well as recreational and tourist activities. complemented with a plan for environmental
management that includes the analysis of the population, greater income per person and
entire hydrographic basin involved, and values increasing urbanization1, while the availability
and conditions the characteristics of the project of fresh water will remain nearly constant.
to guarantee functionality and production However, such a viewpoint does not consider
within the basin’s natural ecosystem. human instinct for survival, nor humanity’s
creativity and adaptability to face similar
Other Uses of Water situations in many other circumstances.
Water management includes not only the
uses of water in human activities, but also the The most well-known example is the
collection of potential uses of water within pessimistic prediction by Malthus regarding
the natural ecosystem. Thus effective use of insufficient food production for a rapidly
water within the water cycle depends on a growing population, which was refuted in the
broad vision, and implies strategic planning following centuries. Such an example helps
including analysis of the needs to be satisfied focus the topic along less simplistic lines,
and optimization of the system. which consider that together with an increase
in demand, it is possible to respond adaptively
In order to prevent floods for example, a part and innovatively, affecting demand as well
of a reservoir’s regulatory capacity must be as efficiency and thus making it possible to
dedicated to buffer the impact of exceptional convert what nature offers into what man
rises in its level. Such a purpose, “preventing needs, by means of the growing practice of
floods”, competes with other uses of water so-called “sustainable technologies”.
assigned to reservoir capacity and is therefore
considered another use of water. Likewise, The use of fresh water in the world has grown
the need to maintain the ecological flow of six-fold in the past century, while population
rivers to preserve their biota and hydrological growth has multiplied by three. According
processes as well as the natural environment, to estimates for the year 2008, 13% of the
is also considered an effective use of water, global population has no access to improved
because it reduces the availability of water water, a third of the remaining 87% are not
for other uses. Water pollution itself can be connected to a network, while 49% lack
considered a consumptive use of the resource improved sanitation (JMP, 2010).
as the lack of water quality reduces supply for
specific uses.
Other significant and customary uses of water
1 “It should be noted that the great urban masses
have been fishery, navigation and recreation. -3 billion people - need large volumes of water
for their sustainment; in addition, they produce
an enormous amount of wastes (feces and urine)
3.2.2. Evolution and Tendencies which require immediate treatment to avoid
contamination of surface and groundwater.
Observed in the Use of Water. (Added to the needs and consequences of
When first approaching tendencies related economic activity) this group of problems has led
to the current situation affecting water, a crisis
to the use of water, it is logical to think that never seen before that demands action in the
global demand will increase with a growing short, mid and long term” (Tundisi, 2009).
Africa and south Asia are the areas with Another important problem concerns
the greatest deficiencies. We could say in groundwater, which comprises 97% of the
summary, that problems concerning water earth’s freshwater, in contrast to the almost
in developed countries affect above all negligible 0.015% surface water retained
environmental conservation and economic in reservoirs. 33% of the world’s population
growth potential, while developing countries depends on these waters, especially in rural
also have scarcity issues and still lack drinking areas, nevertheless it is threatened not only
water, which among other consequences, by the natural quality of these waters which
directly causes diseases such as diarrhea, in many cases are in contact with geological
cholera and others that provoke serious water layers containing arsenic or other
limitations on global growth and cause harmful substances, but also by anthropic
avoidable deaths. pollution of aquifers or inadequate use of
existing wells.
Irrigation takes on average 70% of extracted
fresh water and a significant part of this It is important to consider that fresh water is
demand is due to the use of inefficient not uniformly distributed from a geographic
techniques such as irrigation by flooding. or time perspective. Uneven distribution
Industrial use on the other hand, is estimated has brought about the construction of
to double in 2050, and in countries under rapid great reservoirs and diversions, not always
industrialization such as China, it will increase considering their social and environmental
up to five times. Urban consumption increases impact. These factors have led to the fear of
along with per capita income, especially in possible wars triggered by access to water
relation to recreational uses (sports fields, and to apocalyptic predictions that announce
parks and gardens, etc.) and those related to that the XXIst century will be the century of
tourism. In contrast, the decrease in quality of water wars.
fresh water very seriously affects its availability,
as soon as the natural self-purification capacity 3.3 Water Requirements:
of rivers is surpassed. In this respect, diffuse Minimun and Midsized Levels
contamination from farming practices caused Many countries are in negative-balance with
by uncontrolled toxic pesticides and fertilizers respect to water resources because they
produce eutrophication (excessive algal consume more water than they have at their
growth and death of aquatic ecosystems) and disposal as a renewable resource. Water
in many cases can cause cancer due to the high deficit is mainly produced when groundwater
concentrations it reaches in certain countries. extraction is greater than aquifer recharge.
This causes exhaustion of the resource, and
Furthermore, industrial contamination by in certain arid nations that base a substantial
heavy metals, organic matter and new toxic amount of their development on water, it is
compounds is estimated to grow by a factor destabilizing. It has been estimated that in
of four in 2025. Urban pollution is present the main water over-drawn countries nearly
above all in megacities and its slum areas. 160 km3 of water are exploited annually,
meaning that 180 million tons of grain (10% of 4. Emerging Water - Related Issues
the world’s production) are being produced 4.1 Water and Basic Human Needs
with non-renewable hydric resources. 4.1.1 Access to Water as a Human Right
The definition of human rights was determined
If the current levels of water consumption at the end of World War II to indicate the rights
continue, two out of every three people on that every human being is entitled to, inherent
the planet will be living in water deficit or to the status of being human and opposable
hydric stress –moderate to severe water to all other human beings and States. The right
scarcity- by the year 2025. At that time, it is every human being has to water arises from
probable that at least one in four individuals the fact that life is impossible without it, and
will live in a country affected by chronic or thus it is a natural right inherent to life. This
recurrent fresh water scarcity (FIG. 4.). implies that the right to water is not created
by legal regulations, but rather these norms
As mentioned above, as the world’s recognize and protect it, and that it can and
population has been tripling in the past must be exercised even when not imposed by
century, water use has doubled, and a statutory norm. Therefore, the right to water
therefore consumption has grown six-fold is indisputably a natural and human right.
during this period. The world’s population
is expected to increase from nearly seven On the other hand, it is important to consider
billion people in 2010 (6,903,100,000 the harm caused by the lack of immediate
United States Census Bureau), to eight access to clean water and the way this affects
billion in 2025. At the same time, the the unproductive time invested in fetching it,
World Water Commission predicts that and the cost of water-borne diseases and their
water use will double in thirty years. impact on infant mortality and labor dynamics.

SOURCE: UN, 2003

FIG. 4. Population above and below the Threshold of Hydric Stress.

4.1.2 Water Supply and Sanitation not enough to cover O&M. This percentage
The percentage of the population covered by however, changes with national level of
residential water and sanitation services per income. In low income countries, only 3% of
region is shown in Table 3. Sub-Saharan Africa the companies had fees that covered O&M
can be seen here as the area with least urban and part of C costs, while in 89%, fees were
water supply, followed by South Asia. too low to cover O&M costs. In low to mid-
income countries, 22% covered O&M and
Tariff and Costs Coverage some of C costs and 37% did not cover O&M
The value and structure of fees are among costs. In Latin America and the Caribbean,
the main factors determining sustainability of 48% covered O&M and some of C costs, while
water and sanitation services. These factors 13% were unable to cover O&M costs with
determine how capable the service is to their fees (Fay, 2006). Currently in Argentina,
cover the costs of supply by means of self- several services in large cities cannot cover
generated income or funding from other O&M costs with fee income.
sources. According to a study by Global Subsidizing drinking water services is more
Water Intelligence (GWI) and based on water the norm than an exception within the sector.
services in important cities worldwide, it is In some cases this is a consequence of fixing
normal practice to fix the price of clean water tariffs for the service according to political
services below the supply cost. The average criteria instead of the costs that guarantee
tariff based on a residential consumption of sustainability.
15 m3/month is US$0.53/m3 and increases
with national income level. On the other hand, many countries have
taken pains to develop tariff schemes that
Based on a sample of companies from around allow service sustainability, along with parallel
the world, it was calculated that in 30%, fee subsidy schemes focusing on the needs of
income covered operation and maintenance poorer homes that are unable to pay these
costs (O&M) and partially covered costs fees. Thus they achieve both the financial
of capital (C), while in 39% fee income was goal of self-sustainability of the service and

Table 3. Percentage of Population Covered by Water and Sanitation per Region– Year 2008
Region Home Water  Urban Water Rural Water  Urban Rural
Supply Supply Supply Sanitation Sanitation
East Asia 15 83 49 61 53

Southeast Asia 33 92 81 79 60
South Asia 23 95 83 57 26
Sub-Saharan Africa 16 83 47 44 24
North Africa 92 96 78 94 83
Developed Countries 94 100 98 100 96
Latin America 84 97 80 86 55
Source: JMP (2010). Joint Monitoring Program (WHO+UNICEF). Information corresponds to 2008. Names and definitions of type
of access to water services and sanitation correspond to those established by the Joint Monitoring Program in its documents.
the social goal of universal coverage. State 80% of all diseases are due to consumption on
participation for financing infrastructure is “non-drinkable” water and the poor sanitary
also common at several jurisdictional levels, conditions of the population. Close to 20% of
particularly in major building projects. all illnesses could be avoided by improving
water supply, sanitation services, and hygiene
In order to achieve financial sustainability of and handling of water resources (UNESCO,
services, it has been deemed convenient that 2003). Additionally, these improvements
tariff income should cover at least operation would reduce infant mortality and nutritional
costs and those related to infrastructure level in a sustained manner.
maintenance so as to guarantee service
quality and the state of conservation Water supply and sanitation services also
and functionality that corresponds to the improve education as school attendance
recommended technical standards. increases when absences caused by disease
or time dedicated to carry water is reduced.
4.1.3 Water and Health Women are especially affected by fetching
Every year, diseases related to water cause water (UNPD, 2006). Within the domestic
more than 5 million deaths worldwide, scope, emphasis is made on the lack of access
while approximately 2,300 million people to sufficient quantities of drinking water and
suffer from water-borne diseases and 60% adequate sanitation, as well as the promotion
of infant mortality is caused by infectious of good hygiene habits.
and parasitic diseases, most of them
related to water. Diarrhea is one of the 4.2 Water and Development
main causes of death in these diseases. 4.2.1 Regionality
Water is the most important component
The relation between GIP per capita and on the planet and all living things depend
the number of deaths or illnesses caused on its presence. Water also promotes or
by the consumption of unsafe water, lack discourages economic growth and social
of adequate sanitary conditions and poor development in every region and affects its
hygiene reveals, that the most serious life and cultural patterns. Therefore water
problems regarding water-borne diseases is recognized as the predominant agent in
are found in poorer countries. regional and national development.

Universal clean water and sanitation From primitive urban and farming settlements,
services not only improve the health of the development of peoples has historically
the lower income population but also their been closely linked to water, becoming a
income through cost reduction of these decisive factor in the selection of a place to
services. Improvement also occurs in the live and to locate all kinds of industrial plants.
general well-being of families as it implies Demographic and economic growth, lack of
progressive distribution of income. In the criteria for conservation and sustainable use
developing world, it has been calculated that of natural resources, subsequent pollution
and regional growth of water demand have of water quality has put increasingly severe
all contributed to its scarcity. This has led to limits on water availability. These regions are
competition for the resource, which becomes where the most important human settlements
acute during dry years and culminates in are found together with areas of strong
conflicts that affect the development of industrial development.
communities. Thus the control, rational use,
and preservation of water quantity and quality 4.2.2 Seasonality
within national, regional and local spheres are It is important to consider the seasonality
strategic for the development of nations and of hydric resources and its connection to
the protection of human beings. potential regional growth. Most time-series
for hydrologic variables have an important
Total consumption of water tripled between seasonal component. From a hydrological
1950 and 1995, when water use exceeded 4,300 viewpoint, greater seasonality is linked to
km3/year or the equivalent of 30% of the world’s greater precipitation in certain months of
stable renewable water supply. In addition, the the year, which is directly associated with the
world’s irrigated surface has increased five-fold rainfall pattern and occasionally, in basins fed
to be able to feed its population; consequently, by snowmelt or both rain and snowmelt, with
more than 26 countries have had their water the presence and orientation of mountain
availability fall below 1,000 m3 per person ranges, i.e. orography. Precipitation seasonality
per year, reaching water scarcity. This reveals is often a factor that restricts the use of water,
a global scene of poor water management, in particular when supply and demand are
scarcity, over-exploitation and pollution that is out of step, although this can be reduced by
reaching a point where water is becoming the regulating water through reservoirs.
limiting factor for sustainable development in
many nations. Ultimately, water seasonality is an additional
restriction to the amount of water
On the other hand, in many countries the economically available and it can be very
problem is not the lack of fresh water but its severe. When seasonality and availability
poor distribution. In general, large countries are considered together, they allow “hydric
often have significant differences in regional stress” indicators to be determined when
development. Argentina is not foreign to compared relative to demand.
this phenomenon and along its extension
there is great territorial inequality. In spite of 4.3 Water and Society
its important overall water supply, there is a 4.3.1 Giving Value to Water
large imbalance between potential demand To recognize that water is a good with
and availability in large areas of the country. economic value implies understanding
In the humid and sub-humid regions, where the need to apply economic principles to
water supply and climate characteristics allow its study and the organization of its use,
the growing of crops on un-irrigated land or for the purpose of achieving its proper
by supplemental irrigation, the deterioration management and administration. This does
not necessarily mean that a price must be put warned that the future of the development
on water; it implies that its management must of nations is strongly linked to water and its
consider both direct and indirect social and availability. However, there is clearly a lack
environmental costs and benefits associated of integration between water management
to its various uses and include the restrictions and society’s interests, attitudes and
these have in order to protect the health and behaviors regarding water; therefore it is
safety of individuals and the environment. necessary to radically transform current
practices, in other words, it is necessary to
Incorrect allocation of costs for example, has develop a new water culture.
contributed in many cases to resource and
environmental deterioration. If only the costs Responsible participation of social actors
declared by users are considered, or those in the management of water requires an
determined by partial interests, and all the irreplaceable ingredient: that they understand
costs that are effectively paid for by society the processes. In this way it would be possible
as one are excluded, the use of the resource to facilitate agreements to execute rational,
will not be sustainable. responsible and supportive actions in every
one of the tasks in which these actors must
Integrated management is an alternative to interact with water, making special emphasis
the market system which allows the weighing on providing value and grassroots support
of all benefits and costs that a society faces for the conservation and responsible use of
when adequately managing hydric resources. water as a resource for life.
This means achieving the participation of all of
the affected sectors in the making of important 4.3.3 Public Participation in the Water
decisions. This mechanism cannot guarantee Management
that optimum decisions will be reached, The movement towards a new relationship
although it can ensure that they will be based with water based on sustainability not only
on the coordinated efforts between all those requires continuous economic, scientific
affected by interrelationships that cannot be and technological efforts, but also new
resolved by operations research tools and approaches in the field of education, as well
systems analysis, because of their complexity. as a reconsideration of the processes used
to facilitate individual participation in the
The main reason why it is difficult to making of public decisions. As individuals
organize water markets is that water is not participate, there is an improvement in
a homogenous good, as it continuously the efficiency with which human societies
changes in most of the processes related to respond to the challenges of the environment
its use, quality and location. and sustainability. Intervention by the people
permits a better diagnosis of existing
4.3.2 The Issue of Water in Education problems, the generation of a group of
The XXIst century is destined to be “the wider alternatives to solve the challenges
century of water”, and we have already proposed, and the mobilization of the human
and material resources of various social activities must focus on information, education,
participants, to achieve better management seeking advice, strengthening initiatives, taxing,
of the environment. Frequently, the agreement, decision-making and management
appropriate solution to a problem is found in all phases of the project. Education on the use
exclusively in the hands of the community and management of water must be available to
itself, thus making its participation essential all; nevertheless, it must adopt diverse formulas
(IV Congreso Ibérico, 2004). that are adapted to a variety of recipients
and socio-environmental contexts. Education
Participation does not guarantee that everyone must be permanent, universal and go beyond
will agree with the decisions adopted in the generation boundaries so as to reach the
end, but it can promote taking the desires education system, as well as administrative and
and needs of a large number of people social actors.
into account, and in this way participation
integrates interests into the decision-making Although there is a wide group of useful
processes. In addition, it allows people to instruments to organize and channel public
better understand the reasons behind a participation in environmental management,
decision, the complex variables that affect a very limited set of instruments have
problematic issues, the potential effects that traditionally been used to plan and manage
must be foreseen when getting involved or water (IV Congreso Ibérico, 2006). They have
the limitations that condition decision-making. been questioned in the following areas:

The following are some of the more • Lack of information about procedures: data
specific arguments that show the need for regarding procedures (deadlines for claims,
participative decision-making: places to consult documents, etc.) do not
always get to those potentially interested
• River basins are synergic: any action taking because the information is frequently
place in one point affects the whole. Users published only in the official journal and
and residents in a basin must share and there is no real effort to disclose it further.
resolve the tension generated by the use • The complexity of the documents at public
of water. disposal: the highly technical character of the
• The characteristics of water are irregular; documents at public disposal makes it difficult
this forces the making of unforeseen for those interested to interpret them.
decisions, and therefore decision-making • Lack of transparency: it is uncommon for
based on rigid and predetermined formulas social actors to have access to sufficient
becomes inadequate. information regarding water as to guarantee
the transparency of the processes involved
Traditional conceptions regarding the in its management.
process of development must be overcome.
Community participation must include analysis, An additional reason to promote participation
decision-making and action. Therefore, is that the only way to have been proved by
experience that effectively avoids management of these situations because of the growing
from being dominated by partial interests pressure of demand on available resources.
in the absence of competition as a control- There are places where water costs account
mechanism, is the demand by citizens through for 10% of the income of poorer families.
tools that channel participation efficiently.
Problems that cause insufficient water supply
4.3.4 Interjurisdictional Hydric Resources 2
typically go beyond community and political
It has been calculated that for the year 2025 boundaries and affect continents and countries.
water demand will be 56% greater than Many political limits between countries are
supply. In fact, it is already a scarce good bodies of water; close to 40% of the global
for a good part of humanity: more than 20% population lives in river basins that are shared by
have no access to clean/safe water (2.6 billion more than one country, and many communities
people according to the WHO and UNICEF) (such as Israel and Palestine) depend on drinking
and up to 40% suffer its scarcity and cannot water from the same aquifers that have been
even count on basic hygiene infrastructure in over-exploited. Thus water scarcity resulting
their homes. Conflicts have started to appear from its poor management frequently brings
regarding global appropriation of local hydric about the risk for conflict. This is why it is so
resources either by reservoirs, channels, tanks important to find ways to manage shared water
or bottles. by means of cooperation without confrontation.
In summary, proper water management,
In 1949 there were 5,000 great hydraulic according to its characteristics, requires not only
dams on earth and at the end of the XXth local but also national, regional or international
century the number had increases to 45,000. action.
Because many of these dams modify the flow
of rivers that are shared by several countries, Argentine Republic
they have sparked conflicts in many cases. The Constitution of the Argentine Nation has
established that provinces have the original
The conflicts that have arisen between Egypt domain over the natural resources that exist
and Ethiopia for the exploitation of the in their territories, which means that provinces
Nile River are well known, as well as those own their hydric resources. Whenever water
in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a is shared by several provinces, agreements
consequence of the Grand Inga dam or in the must be sought between the parties. Basin
Brazilian Amazon where indigenous peoples committees have been created to facilitate
fight against the Xingú River dam. To these these agreements and in some cases
confrontations between peoples and nations basin agencies with executive powers (See
we can add the violent protests in cities such Appendices, points 6 and 7).
as Cochabamba (Bolivia), Soweto (South
Africa) or Jakarta (Indonesia) against the
privatization of water supply and everything 2 Point 6 (Appendix I) deals with the topics
introduced here
seems to indicate that there will be more
4.4 Significant Impact Related Floods have also caused numerous human
to the Water Sector deaths. The list of natural events that have
4.4.1 Droughts and Floods caused human victims in the last thirty years
The definition of drought has been highly includes two great flood disasters, in 1970 and
debated because of the disparity in the 1991, both in Bangladesh. They respectively
criteria applied by various authors. It has occupy first and third place regarding number
no universally accepted definition and of victims. Fortunately, the number of flood
therefore has becomes a term that is not fatalities tends to decrease in time because
entirely precise. In its broadest meaning, most exceptional hydrologic events develop
a drought may be an abnormal period of slowly and forecast techniques and early alert
high water scarcity produced by a lack systems have been implemented in many
of precipitation with negative effects not densely populated areas.
only agriculture but also on other activities
such as hydroelectricity, and drinking water As to economic losses, the situation remains
supply as well3. serious because not only have great disasters
increased in number, but annual losses also
Of all natural disasters, droughts have the consider minor events that produce local
greatest economic impact and affect the flooding. A tendency analysis reveals that
largest number of people. flooding disasters and the economic losses they
produce have drastically increased in recent
Floods, as well as earthquakes and cyclones, years. Additionally, economic costs of floods
may have a great physical intensity but must consider the cost of building structures
they do not last long and have a limited against floods and their maintenance.
geographical impact, although the number
of deaths caused by these disasters may 4.4.2 The Effects of Climate Change
be very high if densely populated areas are Any regional increase in extreme events
affected. In contrast, droughts affect large (storms, floods, cyclones, droughts, etc.)
extensions of territory, including entire associated to climate change will cause
countries and can last several months or in physical damage, migration, adverse
some cases even years. effects on food production, damage to
the quality and availability of fresh water,
Disasters caused by flooding account for one and an increase in the risk of epidemics
third of all natural disasters around the world,
at least in terms of economic loss, and are
3 “There is no single solution to face the pressure on
responsible for more than half the fatalities. the growing consumption of water and instability of
Damage by floods has been extremely severe rain patterns. Nations must draw up holistic action
plans and put them into practice.” These plans
in the past decades and their intensity and must “guarantee drinking water and sanitation for
frequency have been clearly increasing. In the all/Increase water efficiency in agriculture/Increase
past ten years, losses have reached more than anticipation of droughts by means of improving
water storage” (Sachs, 2008, p. 184)
250 billion dollars.
caused by infectious diseases, particularly extinction in more vulnerable species,
in vulnerable populations. producing loss in biodiversity.

The precise effect of climate change on It is worth mentioning that the effects of
hydric resources is unknown. Precipitation climate change will not be linked exclusively
will probably increase at latitudes beyond to potential damage and loss to society. It
30ºN and 30ºS, but many tropical and also may produce benefits by improving
subtropical regions will potentially receive a environmental conditions in specific regions,
smaller or more irregular amount of rainfall. for example, generating new areas apt for
A noticeable tendency towards an increase food production at high latitudes or allowing
in extreme meteorological conditions will the application of adaptive measures in certain
probably lead to more floods, droughts, mud regions suffering modification in their climate
slides, typhoons and cyclones. If the current which will be better than the current situation.
situation is not modified, climate change
will have more significant environmental, 4.4.3 Water Pollution
social and economic impact and costs. Such Although within the developing world
negative impact includes: the total population is on the rise, its
rural population is expected to decline
• Food security: if global temperatures rise slightly while its urban population grows
significantly, the most probable effect will rapidly. Human settlements contaminate
be a general decrease in crop production resources, therefore the proper
in most tropical and subtropical countries. management of clean and wastewater is
Arid land could be the most affected, essential to reduce pollution and minimize
because its vegetation is sensitive to small health risks.
changes in climate.
• Extreme events: droughts and floods Irrigated farming also has a significant
will become more intense. Strong impact on the environment. Extraction of
precipitation will cause more damage water from rivers and lakes for irrigation
due to more frequent landslides and puts aquatic ecosystems at risk causing
avalanches. Some coastal cities will be losses in productivity and biodiversity.
threatened by flooding. Chemical products used on irrigated land
• Health: tropical diseases will be found at often contaminate surface and underground
ever higher latitudes. Disease vectors, runoff. Potassium and nitrogen applied as
such as mosquitoes and water-borne fertilizers can be leached into surface and
pathogens (related to poor water quality, groundwaters making algae proliferate and
and food availability and quality) will be causing eutrophication. Irrigation waters
subject to change. can also contain naturally existing salts, and
• Ecosystems: while some species will in arid regions, irrigation can leach toxic
increase in abundance or variety, climate elements that are natural components of soil
change will increase the existing risk of such as selenium.
Together with agricultural and municipal 4.5 Management of Hydric Resources
wastewaters, industrial wastes put hydric 4.5.1 Emerging Paradigms in the
resources at risk throughout the entire planet, Management of Water
harming and destroying ecosystems. This Throughout history and the spreading of the
threatens the hydric security of individuals civilized world, water has been managed
and of the activities that use and consume in very diverse ways. Nevertheless, within
water. At the same time, pollution has a direct this highly varied landscape, it is possible to
economic impact on fishing and industries observe the permanent presence of tension
that require clean water in both developed along two lines: between centralized and
and developing countries. Hydric security has decentralized forms of organization, and
been increasingly affected by water deficit between a greater or lesser participation of
and the decline in water quality. private initiative.

The main problems and processes related to The fact is underlined by the paradigm that
the pollution of surface waters (lakes, rivers has been taking shape in recent decades
and reservoirs) are shown in FIG. 5., taken which proposes that going from one of these
from Tundisi, 2009. extremes to another, a frequent situation

Loss of
Difficulties in Damages to
navigation fishing
Distinction of
ecosystems and
Decrease in water endemic species Contamination
of water

Sedimentation by toxic Eutrophication Acidification
water level

Over use of land

(farms, rangelands, forests) Excessive
taking of water

Non-Sustainable Agriculture,
Overgrazing, Deforestation

Population increase
globalization of the economy

FIG. 5. Main Problems and Processes Related to the Pollution of Surface Water (Lakes, Rivers, Dams). Results of
the Study Carried Out in 600 Lakes of Several Continents by ILEC.

in many countries, reflects the need to the fields of engineering (particularly systems
attain a balance between opposite forms analysis) and economics. Development in
of organization, as no extreme form can these two fields promoted the opposite
produce good results on its own. The Dublin tendencies mentioned above: towards
Principles4, reached by consensus in 1992, planned and centralized management
propose this paradigm in a language that is of water on the one hand, and towards
accessible to those who are non-specialists decentralized management on the other.
in the many areas that are relevant for water
management (basically engineering, geology, The first tendency produced the setting
meteorology, biology, law, economics and up of Basin Authorities for the purpose
public and private management). of managing hydric resources as a system
in which optimum use is achieved by a
“How can there be a balance between purely series of norms and works, on the base of
technological management and management comprehensive assessment of needs and
that includes education, divulging of possibilities. The second tendency produced
problems and community participation? The awareness of water as a scarce good, as well
issue should be considered for each basin or as awareness of the convenience of recurring
sub-basin and shall depend on the degree of to decentralization (as far as possible given
existing technology and the perception and the characteristics of the hydrologic cycle),
education of the community, as well as the based on market mechanisms in which
ability of decision-makers, municipal prefects individual responses to prices determined
and basin managers to manage conflict” by supply-demand interactions define how
(Tundisi, 2005). water is assigned among users.

The Dublin Principles synthesize a consensus

on the need for a comprehensive picture 4 Dublin Principles: 1) Fresh water is a finite and
vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life,
on hydric resources, yet this does not imply development and the environment. It must be
ignoring or not valuing the opinion of managed in an integrated manner. 2) Water
development and management should be
representatives of various organizations,
based on a participatory approach, involving
groups of citizens, and local municipal or users, planners and policy-makers at all
communal governments. They also reveal levels. 3) Women play a central part in provision,
management and safeguarding water. 4) Water
an agreement on the need to bear in mind has an economic value in all of its competing uses
that water has a cost and a value, which and should be recognized as an economic good,
by means of principles that permit accessible
leads to consider how private initiative could
cost and socially equitable consumption. These
contribute to its more efficient use. principles were agreed in 1992 during the
International Conference for Water and the
Environment in Dublin, in preparation for the
This new paradigm is to some extent a return United Nations International Conference for
to what prevailed in most countries previous Water and the Environment held in Rio de Janeiro
to the overwhelming impact of progress in the same year.

made during the XIXth and XXth centuries in

Both proposals were applied throughout and conflictive region formed by Israel and its
the world, generally producing results that neighbors where the use of the Jordan River
did not meet the expectations they had was disputed until 1967 when Israel included
created. It is now generally accepted that it in its territory. The study shows agreements
Basin Authorities can only be efficient when between states that are very robust, and
there is a very high degree of trust between quotes the treaty between India and Pakistan
the independent institutional or political units that was sustained in spite of two wars and an
they are made of, which expressly allows acute crisis in 2002.
delegation of duties. If trust is not achieved,
then conflict over competence results and 4.5.2 Economics and Water Management
the execution of the actions proposed by The general objective of the Integrated
those authorities is jammed (except in poorly Management of Water Resources (IMWR) is
developed regions where local government accepted to be the promotion of efficient,
agencies are very weak). fair and sustainable use of water. The issues
considered in the above section regarding
Later there was a revaluation of the the difficulties to attain these objectives by
traditional organization of water that was merely applying quantitative techniques or
based on respecting independence as much pricing systems, led to the suggestion of
as possible and the search for agreements minimizing the cost of complying with a series
between autonomous jurisdictions that were of thresholds or goals related to the main risks
related by water in various ways. Although it facing water management. Because these risks
is not always possible to reach agreements, are interrelated in many ways and therefore
experience shows that for every conflict form a complex system, minimizing the cost
between independent entities, it is possible of respecting these thresholds or goals is not
to find many cases of amicable solution where equal to minimizing the cost of water nor is it
cooperation has allowed the achievement of the same as maximizing the value of services
better results than management that only related to water management.
avoids conflict.
There is a unique solution to the challenge of
Research by the University of Oregon in achieving efficiency –an efficient use of scarce
the United States has found evidence of resources- and efficacy –assigning resources
the low probability of wars sparked by to activities that the population values or
conflict related to water. The study of 263 needs- without resorting to a pricing system
transboundary basins, spanning close to half (market) or to quantitative optimization
of the earth’s surface, found that these basins techniques: facilitating coordination and
create cooperation more often than conflict. stimulating mechanisms for participatory
Throughout the past century, 400 treaties control. In other words, when it is not possible
regarding the use of rivers have been signed. to organize management in a way that market
Out of 37 incidents that have created violent competition contributes to an efficient and
situations in the past, 30 occurred in the dry effective assignment of resources, only the
demands of the population –as users or clients other aspects that can only be appreciated
for the services, or as owners or residents in from an overall perspective however,
independent jurisdictions- can promote water local management must be articulated
management that is efficient and effective. with neighboring jurisdictions, provincial
management and national agencies.
For this reason, when awareness of the
importance to conserve water resources and Basin Committees are the most widely
protect the environment spread throughout used coordination mechanism in Argentina,
all nations in the second half of the XXth although integrated management needs other
century, the new agencies created to achieve additional tools, such as organizing consortia
these objectives were basically directed or formulating sectoral interjurisdictional plans.
to implementing the two lines of action
just mentioned: facilitate coordination and 4.5.3 Water and the Media
promote participation. A debate on “water and the media” was
included in the presentations that took place
In all issues related to defining and reaching within the “Water Tribune” in the 2008 Expo
the thresholds and goals that minimize Zaragoza, as part of the chapter called “Water
environmental and water-related risks there and Society”; from it several conclusions and
must be coordination between the existing experiences can be obtained.
public agencies and also between these and
the private sector. The new agencies that One particularly interesting topic included
manage water and the environment cannot the results of a survey on the participation of
exercise authority over sectoral agencies or Spanish television news broadcasts in issues
autonomous governments on which they related to water. In general, results show
depend; they can only promote and enable that 74% of the population is informed by
the success of the numerous agreements television newscasts. Out of four thousand
needed for integrated water management by news items commented in four newscasts
providing technical assistance, fomenting the during two months, only 3.8% were
production and diffusion of information on somehow related to water issues. Within
water, and stimulating training and education this small total, 32% of the news referred
for specialists in the most important aspects to rains, 20% to floods, 28.6% to problems
of water management. regarding the ocean, 11.3% to droughts and
only 8% to water resource management.
Because participation usually is efficient only According to the information presented,
within the local sphere, it is advisable that newscasts show a catastrophic image of
basic water services, that is, water supply water, as well as one within the frame of the
and sanitation, flood prevention, control environmental health of oceans. In contrast,
of groundwater use, pollution prevention, they show little interest in technological,
include participation at that level. In order economic, social and political issues related
not to lose sight of economies of scale and to water management.
Although in Argentina there is no statistical as planning, flood prevention or water
information similar to that of Spain, most of conservation, and management regarding
the Argentinian population also obtains its coordination between all utilities and between
news from television broadcasts, with the these and other social organization sectors.
additional problem that they are seen as The services are generally provided by public
showing “the absolute truth”. companies or agencies, within a framework of
norms that regulate the activities they must fulfill
On the other hand, it is clear that television to reach their objectives. Usually, each company
journalism in Argentina is even more interested or organization should execute a series of
in catastrophes because they have more rating, functions within its organization, by agreement
and with exceptions, it has a tendency to look for with other agencies or through subcontracting.
guilty parties when searching for the technical
reasons and eventual solutions to problems. The fact that almost all of these functions,
Furthermore, these telecasts show the opinion with the exception of coordination, internal
of a specialized professional that is generally control and updating of the regulatory
questioned by professionals from other fields, framework, can be delegated to third parties,
the journalists themselves and supposedly helps to understand why water management
qualified persons. Nevertheless, in most cases differs so much between jurisdictions; in many
it is incorrect to believe that everything is a cases several of these functions are provided
conspiracy against the specialists in the sector. by specialized agencies, which results in
It must be recognized that specialists have advantages and disadvantages that must be
had a relatively poor ability to announce the assessed in each individual case.
implications, benefits and eventual problems
of their projects in due time and manner. This It is common for several agencies to offer
implies that the education of professionals in the same services in the three levels of
the science of water must not only concentrate government, so coordination between
on the scientific and technological excellence them is deemed to avoid duplication of
of its graduates but must also search for the their functions. This suggests that good
adequate methodology to allow its students coordination is the key, as it always leads
to transmit the need to give priority to projects to improved results. It is also important to
within the interests of society and voice its realize that coordination is just as important
benefits, costs and impact in a simple and within each agency, i.e. among its functional
credible way. divisions, as it is with other agencies.

4.5.4 Institutional Development for In certain cases, reorganization is used to

Water Management5 revive organizations that have become
Water management includes services
provided directly or indirectly to individual 5 Point 7 (Appendix II) describes the legal-
clients or users, services provided administrative framework for water in
simultaneously to many sectors, such
paralyzed. Nevertheless, reorganization 2. The challenges of water management in
processes cannot usually be used to Argentina.
correct management errors because these 3. Proposals for the development of water
are generally the result of not achieving a resources in two priority areas: energy and
minimum degree of coordination. water supply and sanitation.

The chapter on “Providing Water and 5.1 The View of Argentina Regarding
Sanitation” in the book by UNESCO on the Various Uses of Water
engineering (UNESCO, 2010), concludes by The following general conclusions can be
saying that there is an urgent need for planned reached based on the information revealed in
action to administer hydric resources and that the present work including years 2008, 2009
a particular concern exists for problems arising and 2010:
in urban areas of developing countries (page
287). It points out that many interventions have 5.1.1 Available Water Resources:
failed because little attention has been paid to Variability Related to Space, Time and
the institutional view that has put them into Water Quality
practice and because of the lack of participation • Water supply is irregularly distributed
of those involved in their development and around the world. Latin America and the
execution. It also states: “Intervention must Caribbean occupy approximately 15% of
consider the complete urban cycle of water the surface of the planet and produce 33%
and recognize the interactions between the of the world’s surface runoff. The region is
various components of the system. home to 10% of world population and thus
Thought must also be given to the way water the amount of water per person is greater
is used and reused and to greater use of than the worldwide average. However, two
natural treatment systems”, in order to obtain thirds of the territory is arid or semi-arid and
more robust and resilient systems in the face one fourth of the population lives in areas
of non-foreseeable pressures and emerging under hydric stress. Thus, improving the
pollutants. spatial and temporal distribution of water
supply and demand is a regional challenge.
5. Hydric Resources in Argentina • In the past 50 years, global population
Having presented water issues in the context has tripled while water use has increased
of the world, Latin America and the Caribbean, six-fold. Water demand for consumption
including some Argentinian references, the increases as the population grows and
present work now discusses information, improves its standard of living.
conclusions and suggestions in three different • Argentina has an average annual surface
categories with particular focus on the use of water supply greater than 20,000 m3/
water in Argentina: person, making it a country rich in water.
Nevertheless, the nation’s possibilities for
1. Posture of Argentina regarding the various balanced territorial development are linked
uses of water. to adequate water availability regarding
space and time, for which it must build humid regions, where water supply and
infrastructure and management capacity to climate allow the development of non-
overcome its climate diversity as well as the irrigated or complementary irrigated
uneven distribution of its hydric resources crops, degradation of water quality limits
(point 3.1.3). its availability.

Table 4. Climatic Regions

The humid region is home to 70% of the
population (40 inhab./km2) has a surface of
665,000 km2 (24% of the total surface area) and Climate % of total % total national
a precipitation of more than 800 mm; in addition Regions national surface population
it holds 80% of agricultural production value and area
85% of industrial activity, as well as the essential
service infrastructure in the country. Agriculture Humid 24 % 68 %
is mainly un-irrigated, although in the past two Semi-arid 15 % 26 %
decades there has been a strong development Arid 61 % 6%
of complementary irrigation.
Twenty-eight percent of the population lives in
the semi-arid region (15% of the total surface The average annual precipitation in Argentina
of the country). Because of the significant is 600 mm, corresponding to an annual
water deficit in the region during most of the volume of 1.668 km3. Of this amount, close
year, irrigation is vital for the development of to 83% is evapotranspired and directly
certain crops. evaporated, and therefore annual internal
renewable hydric resources by rainfall are
The arid region (61% of the nation’s total calculated at 814 km3/year. Of this total,
surface) is home to 6% of the Argentinian 538 km3/year are contributed by bordering
population. As agriculture requires countries, especially the basins of the Paraná-
comprehensive irrigation, the development Paraguay and Uruguay rivers.
of this area depends on water availability and
the adequateness of the soil. The total use of renewable hydric resources in
the country is 4%.
From this information it can be gathered that
76% of the national territory has arid and The country’s orographic layout determines the
semi-arid conditions, which emphasizes the formation of three hydrographic watersheds:
importance of integrated and sustainable Atlantic, Pacific and Endorheic Basins. These
management of hydric resources (Table 4). greater watersheds are also subdivided into
systems and hydrographic basins (FIG. 6.).
In arid and semi-arid regions, water
deficit due to scarcity and seasonal The following table (Table 5) shows average
variability limits the production potential annual flow for the most important basins in
of the soil, while in the humid and sub- Argentina. The outflow of the Río de la Plata
In general, total water supply in Argentina
is increasingly conditioned by pollution in
rivers, lakes and aquifers from diffuse and
concentrated sources.

Influence of Climate Tendencies

Observed in the Argentine Republic
• Increase in average annual precipitation
in nearly all of Argentina, especially in the
Northeast and to the west of the traditional
humid region.
• Increase in the frequency of extreme
precipitation in a large part of the east and
center of the country.
• Increase in temperature in the mountainous
area of Patagonia and Cuyo, along with
glacier retreat.
SURCE: GIRAUT, GAVIÑO NOVILLO, LUDUEÑA, 1997 • Increase in river flow and flood frequency
FIG. 6. Watersheds and Surface Water Regions throughout the country except in San
Juan, Mendoza, Comahue and the north of
basin represents more than 85% of the total
surface resources. Based on reports by IPCC, global climate
change will increase or create the following
From the perspective of relative hydric sources of vulnerability:
wealth, the Pacific watershed systems have • Flow withdrawal in the rivers of the Río de
the greatest specific flow reaching close to la Plata Basin.
36.2 l/sec/km2, by far higher than the national • Increased water stress in all of the nation’s
average of 6.4 l/sec/km2. Several areas in the north and part of the west.
arid and semiarid regions, which comprise • Decreased snow precipitation in the Andes
nearly 15% of the total surface, have basins Mountains, probable water crisis in Mendoza
that do not spill into the sea and their and San Juan, as well as a decrease in
contribution to flow is less than 1%. hydroelectricity production in Comahue.
• More frequent intense precipitation
Regarding availability of groundwaters, their events and flooding in areas where these
use is related to rainfall and river water in already occur.
each region; thus they are used when surface • Continued retreat of glaciers.
waters are not available. Groundwater • Impact of increased sea level on certain
supply is limited at times by poor quality and points along the seaboard and coast of the
aquifer thickness. Río de la Plata.
Table 5. Watersheds by System
Average flow Outflow Drainage basin Specific flow
m3/s % Hm3 km2 l/sec/km2
Atlantic Watershed
Río de la Plata(a) 22.031 85,27 694.770 3.092.000 7,1
Buenos Aire Province 147 0,57 4.636 181.203 0,8
Colorado 319 1,24 10.060 92.840 3,4
Patagonia 1.941 7,52 61.211 356.033 5,5
Sub total 24.438 94,6 770.677 3.722.076
Average - - - - 6,5
Pacific Watershed
Various 1.212 4,69 38.222 33.455 36,2
Independent (b) 42 0,16 1.325 248.871 0,2
Mar Chiquita 114 0,44 3.595 22.030 5,2
Serrano 24 0,09 757 26.555 0,9
La Pampa 6 0,02 189 600 10
Sub total 186 0,71 5.866 298.056
Average 0,6
Total 25.836 100 814.764 4.053.587
Average 6,4
(a) Average flow includes 100% of the Uruguay River flow and the surface recorded is the total drainage basin.
Source: Hydric balance for the Argentine Republic. INCYTH-UNESCO, 1994

5.1.2 Consumption of Water to Satisfy • The above occurs regardless of the orderly,
Basic Needs pacific and non-conflicting incorporation
• Water consumption varies considerably of the right to water in the Argentinian
in Argentina from 150 to 400 l/inhab/d. legal system, and the fact that the right is
On the other hand, it has been calculated protected by courts and is accepted and
that the volume that cannot be accounted studied by specialized doctrine.
for is between 30 to 45% of the water Argentinian positive law in Article 41 of
produced. The same happens with micro- the National Constitution proclaims that
measurement, which varies from zero to all inhabitants enjoy the right to a healthy,
100% of the users in a few small localities, balanced environment that is apt for human
although the national average is below 20%. development and the productive activities
• The entire population of Argentina is not needed to satisfy present needs, without
guaranteed water availability to cover threat to the obligation of protecting this
basic needs. The main deficiencies occur right. Although it does not specifically state
in metropolitan areas of larger cities as a that the aforementioned is a human right, it is
consequence of a lack of supply networks implied in the term “all inhabitants”.
and the contamination of surface and
groundwater resources. There are also rural Water Supply and Sanitation
populations in arid and semi-arid areas with FIG. 7 shows the history of water and sanitation
a jeopardized supply capacity. coverage in Argentina from 1990-2008. Water
services with a connection to a public network approximately 0.2% of their GIP in water and
grew 11%, while sanitation services by a network sanitation. From 1970-1980, Argentina invested
remained practically constant, in other words an average of 0.17% of its GIP in the area;
they increased with demographic growth. while from 1981-1991 it fell to 0.08%, although
it increased to 0.21% from 1993 to 2001. In
According to data form the National Institute subsequent years, investment decreased as a
for Statistics and Census (INDEC -Instituto consequence of the macroeconomic crisis and
Nacional de Estadísticas y Censos) for the the renegotiation and cancellation of contracts
first trimester of 2010, the 32 metropolitan for private operation. Recently though,
areas containing 70% of the national urban significant plans for works have been put forth
population had an average clean water and there have been important investments
service coverage of 99,6% and sanitary service from the state budget and loans from multilateral
coverage of 64,5% (BM, 2010). The figures for banking along with renationalization of most of
the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA) the greater services, particularly in the AMBA.
were below these averages.
5.1.3 Tariff Systems
As to wastewater treatment, it is estimated Regarding financial sustainability of water and
that only close to 12% is processed, one of sanitation services, international experience
the lowest percentages in Latin America. In a shows that income covers the costs of
group of 10 provinces, between 50 and 85% maintenance and operation and a part of capital
total wastewaters are treated, although in the costs in all countries except those that are less
largest cities treatment is rare (in general, less developed. Nevertheless, services are partially
than 10%). subsidized even in more developed countries.

In recent decades, it is estimated that Latin As mentioned beforehand, fee income

America and the Caribbean have invested is insufficient to cover operational and

SOURCE: JMP (2006 Y 2010)

FIG. 7. Use of Drinking-Water Sources and Sanitation Services.
maintenance costs in several services in larger socially vulnerable situation who are not able
Argentinian cities. In the AMBA for example, to pay the water and sanitation services’ fee.
where fees have not been modified since Until December of 2009, its beneficiaries were
2002, fee income covered 58% of operation approximately 2% of the registered water
costs in 2009, but this figure fell to 47% in users and obtained an average discount of
2010. In most of the country however, it is approximately 43% of the value billed.
difficult to determine the fee per m3 because
most fee systems are of the “free tap” type in 5.1.4 Droughts and Floods
which there is a fixed charge independent of Due to its geographical location, climate
the amount of water consumed. diversity and relief, Argentina is subject to
natural events such as droughts and floods.
The estimated value per m3 of water and Invariably, they have a direct and significant
sewage services for the services provided by impact on food production and the economy
the AySA - Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos in general.
S.A (Argentine Water and Sanitation
Company) to the AMBA, results from dividing Droughts
the total income from billing by the number of Droughts occur in many areas in Argentina,
m3 water sold, obtaining a figure of US$0.17 in spite of the different characteristics of their
per m3 water consumed. climates. They have occurred for extended time
periods, even for months and years, and for a
Many provinces have kept the same fee system variety of reasons, but basically due to water
since the time when services were operated and land use, in addition to climate. Because
nationwide by the OSN – Obras Sanitarias de droughts originate by lack of precipitation for
la Nación (National Sanitary Works Company) long periods of time, they specifically cause
based on presumed consumption according damage to agricultural activities.
to surface area, zone, quality and age of the
property, differentiating between residential Floods
and non-residential users. These variables In 1982/83 and 1992 there were severe
intend to act as indicators of the water swellings of the Paraná and Paraguay rivers
user’s income level, solvency and water use, that also extended to the Uruguay River.
although the fees obtained this way have The swelling of 1982/83, which lasted more
no statistical correlation with respective than eighteen months and had a maximum
consumption. In addition, the fee scheme is flow of 60,200 m3/s at the Paraná-Paraguay
based on a complex system and is generally confluence, flooded an area of more than
not up to date regarding cross subsidization. 30,000 km2, forcing close to 100,000 people
to evacuate and causing damage calculated at
Complementarily, in some services there is over 2,000 million dollars. Consequently, the
an explicitly focused subsidy. In the AMBA it Secretaría de Recursos Hídricos de la Nación
is called a Social Fee Program and has been (National Ministry of Hydric Resources) put
in practice since 2002. It benefits users in a into action a Hydrological Alert Operation
Center, still in operation, which was originally Measures to Mitigate Floods
part of the current INA- Instituto Nacional del Both structural and non-structural measures
Agua (National Water Institute). Unfortunately, are important in the prevention of flood
the chain of command of the Ministry of damage, and although to an extent they are
Hydric Resources was later down-sized in its different basic notions, they complement
rank and competence, in contradiction with each other in mitigating the effects of river
the recommendations of the 1997 United swellings. Structural measures such as
Nation’s Conference in Mar del Plata. building physical defenses can be actually
added to non-structural measures that lead
During the 1992 flood, when the early alert to a decrease in the cost and risk of floods.
system was already active, there were material In addition, flood disaster mitigation not
damages worth nearly 500 million dollars. It only depends on activities that can be put
was noticeably greater than the flood of 1966 into action during the swelling, but must
(43,800 m3/s) and nevertheless the damages also be the product of combining prevention
in 1996 were less, because both population practices, operational management of
and investment in the river valley were lower swellings and reconstruction and revision
at that time. after the passing of the flood.

When defining an action strategy against Some actions that can help prevent floods
flooding, clearly there is no single response are risk management of swellings; flood
valid under all circumstances and in all contingency plans that establish evacuation
regions, and it is impossible to provide routes, critical thresholds for decision-
absolute protection. There are examples of making, and requirements for emergency
severe swellings that caused serious damage operations, etc.; construction of structural
and were difficult to manage in societies with and non-structural infrastructure for defense
high technological development such as the against flooding (physical works and alert
one in the Mississippi in 1993 or the Oder systems); maintenance of infrastructure
in Germany in 1997. These cases show that for flood defense; territorial planning and
even first world countries suffer these natural management in the entire drainage basin;
disasters and prove that management of avoiding inadequate physical and economic
swellings is a current problem to be discussed settlements in flood plains; and providing
within the science and technology community. information and education to the community
in relation to the risks of floods and the actions
In conclusion, the importance of investi- to be taken in an emergency.
gating water-related natural disasters is
strongly linked to the need to define action Furthermore, operational management of
strategies to avoid them, although it is swellings can be considered complementary
impossible to find a single answer valid in to four activities: a) hydrometereological
all circumstances and to ensure complete detection of possible swelling formation; b)
protection. prediction of runoff conditions; c) alert on
swelling severity and timing, and d) emergency an alert system with a telemetry network was
response from authorities and the population. installed twenty years ago in the basin of the
In this respect, there is an evident need to San Antonio River, in the semi-arid region of
develop specific mathematical models and the Cordoba mountains, there have been no
techniques to estimate the variables to be deaths by alluvial swellings in the touristic town
used to alert and warn the population. of Villa Carlos Paz. The system functions and
gives warning and evacuation signals with only
Actions to be taken after the flood is over a few hours of anticipation from December to
depend on its severity and can include aid March, not just because this is when intense
for the immediate needs of those affected; rainfall occurs, but also because it is the
reconstruction of damaged buildings, tourist season when campers can be found
infrastructure and defense works; recovery in risk areas. It is important for plain basin
and regeneration of the environment and alert systems to produce precise information
economic activity within the flooded area, and regularly not only regarding the date of the
revising planning and management actions to event and its expected height, but also the
be considered in future events. time flood levels are expected to remain.

As stated above, structural and non-structural Likewise, alert systems should function
measures are complementary in mitigating continuously as they predict swellings and falls
the effects of river swellings. Currently, an that can affect navigation. Daily hydrometric
environmental view of the problem suggests levels for the cities of Rosario and Santa Fe
possible non-structural solutions, such as are estimated twenty days in advance, and
territorial zoning of flood plains, appropriate then corrected according to the effect of local
control of development and activities in the rains. In every important coastal city, water
flood-prone areas, early alert systems and levels are predicted with a variable amount of
plans for civil defense. The importance of time and made public at the proper moment
non-structural measures is underlined by the when alert and evacuation levels are reached.
false sense of security in communities living
close to works for physical defense as these The ways and roads that run parallel to water
are designed for a specific critical state, which courses within a great alluvial valley create
can naturally by overwhelmed. problems that are very difficult to solve. More
than 50% of the bridges that have fallen in
Although non-structural measures cover a the United States for example, have failed
wide variety of specialized fields, it is vital to because of poor hydraulic design. When
mention the importance of early alert systems roads are built in low slope areas, their
that are based on the mid-term forecast embankments can alter the flow of water,
of potential floods. If an accurate alert is changing its direction and causing diversion
called in a timely manner in quick response of the basin. Then, land that was not flood-
basins, deaths can be avoided as no one prone before the building of the road
would be surprised by the event. Ever since becomes floodable.
5.1.5 Water and Health Likewise it should be mentioned that a survey
Based on information from the 2001 in the La Matanza district found that 66% of
census, Argentina has developed a sanitary those surveyed mentioned having suffered a
deficit index, which relates access to basic water-borne disease (Cuenca Hídrica Matanza
sanitation services and access to the health Riachuelo, 2004).
system. Thus the population not in sanitary
deficit, in temporary sanitary deficit (lack of In addition to problems associated to access
access to the health system) or structural to water, Argentina must face the presence
sanitary deficit (no access to basic sanitation of natural water contaminants such as arsenic
services), and finally in critical sanitary and fluorine. Prolonged intake of water with
deficit (lack both services) can be calculated high amounts of arsenic can produce certain
(Triano, 2006). kinds of skin cancer, cancer of certain internal
organs (lung, liver, kidney and bladder), as
According to this study, the average Critical well as non-cancerous lesions of the skin,
Sanitary Deficit Index for the nation is 28%, such as altered pigmentation and thickening
with great disparity between provinces (hyperkeratosis). According to recent studies,
(Formosa 53.6%; Greater Buenos Aires the areas exposed to arsenic are home to 2.5
34.8%; Capital Federal 3.4%; Tierra del million people (7% of the population) and
Fuego 4.5%). Similar behavior is observed cover an extension of 435,000 km². According
when considering the Structural Sanitary to a document from 2001, the main provinces
Deficit Index which has a national average exposed to levels of arsenic greater than
of 14.5%. These results imply that 42.5% those allowed by the National Food Code
of the population has deficient access to (Código Alimentario Nacional), are Salta,
basic sanitary services (no matter if the Santiago del Estero, Chaco, Tucumán, Santa
deficit is critical or temporary) (FIG. 8). Fe and La Pampa.


FIG. 8. Population & Structural Sanitary Deficit.
Regarding diseases transmitted by water, it go into bodies of water, there is also social
is worth remembering the cholera outbreak and economic impact in the areas where it
of 1992, which especially affected the is applied. Economic advantages lie mainly
poorer population of the provinces of Salta in that residual water contributes necessary
and Jujuy. In some areas in these provinces, nutrients to crops, which reduces spending on
water and sanitation services were lacking; in artificial fertilizers and increases agricultural
many others the existing services were poorly yield apt for human consumption.
operated and water was not even disinfected
because of supposed budget shortages. The most important experience regarding
the use of treated residual water can be
5.1.6 Water and Agriculture found in the province of Mendoza where it
The total potential land apt for irrigation is used to irrigate nearly 15,000 has (Campo
is close to 6,300,000 hectares, of which Espejo, Palmira, Rivadavia, San Martín), in
2.5 million hectares could be enabled for the province of Chubut (Puerto Madrina,
comprehensive irrigation. Of a total irrigated Rada Tilly, Comodoro Rivadavia) and in the
surface of 1.5 million hectares, 1.1 million province of Córdoba (Villa Nueva) where it is
(73%) are found in arid and semi-arid areas. used in horticulture, floriculture and forestry.
1.75 million hectares have available irrigation
infrastructure, while the area under irrigation Irrigation consumes most of the groundwater
covers 5% of the nation’s agricultural area. extracted as a result of evaporation,
incorporation into plant tissue and crop
The following points summarize the problems transpiration. Unconsumed water recharges
regarding water in the agricultural sector: aquifers or evaporates. Overall, more than
65% of water extracted is used for irrigation.
• Salinity and poor drainage. Of the total
1.5 million hectares under irrigation, it A country is considered to be under
is estimated that 500,000 hectares are hydric stress when it uses more than 20%
affected by poor drainage and/or excess of its renewable water resources. Around
salinity, to a greater or lesser degree. the world there are 20 nations in critical
• Technically obsolete irrigation systems. condition in this respect as 40% of their
Technological backwardness is reflected in renewable water resources are used in
poor maintenance methods and obsolete agriculture. However, both Latin America
systems for water application and water and Argentina extract an average of less
distribution by gravity. than 5% of their total renewable water
• Efficiency of water use below 40%. resources for agricultural purposes.

Although there is strong positive impact In Argentina, 68% of irrigated surface is found
on the environment from reuse of treated in arid and semi-arid areas while the remaining
residual wastewaters in agricultural or 32% that belongs to humid regions, is under
forestry irrigation because fewer pollutants complementary irrigation.
The most common problems regarding pollution as well as the interjurisdictional
irrigation in Argentina are: salinization due to basin organizations involved. Both the legal
poor drainage, technological backwardness, system, at provincial, federal and Supreme
poor efficiency and a poor fee system. Court levels, and national and provincial
These causes can be generally related to ombudsmen, are directly supporting these
a lack of awareness on irrigation issues and initiatives by increasingly demanding
participatory control of government aid to the allocation of sufficient resources to
the sector. water and environmental management
agencies within their jurisdictions and to
5.1.7 Water and Industry the interjurisdictional basin organisms that
• Industrial processes use water intensively. promote coordination and cooperation,
For example, in order to produce one ton and thus demanding results.
of plastic, more than 5,000 m3 of water
are required. 5.1.8 Water and Energy: Hydropower
• On the other hand, industrial processes Argentina has a hydroelectric potential
produce contaminating wastes that must estimated at close to 170,000 GWh/year,
be treated and controlled. In developing of which 130,000 GWh/year correspond to
countries 70% of industrial wastes are inventoried projects in various degrees of
spilled into water without being treated, development. Of the potential accounted for,
as a result the impact on the environment 35,000 GWh/year correspond to works that
frequently causes greater concern than the are under construction or have already been
amount of water used. built 6.
• Pollution in the following areas in Argentina
is the consequence of the lack of quality FIG. 9 shows how each of the seven electricity
control of contaminating discharge into regions in the country contributes to installed
receiving bodies of water by industrial hydroelectric capacity.
processes: the Metropolitan Area of
the city of Buenos Aires (AMBA –Area
Metropolitana de la Ciudad de Buenos
Aires), the basins of the rivers Matanza-
Riachuelo and Reconquista, and to a lesser
degree cities such as Córdoba, Rosario and
San Miguel de Tucumán.
• In order to solve the most critical cases – the
rivers Matanza-Riachuelo and Reconquista
in Buenos Aires and the river Salí Dulce in
the provinces of Tucumán and Santiago del
FIG. 9. Installed Hydroelectric Capacity
Estero- national and provincial governments
have strengthened the agencies directly in
charge of prevention and remediation of 6 Source: Subsecretaría de Energía Eléctrica

The installed hydropower capacity in a year The bi-national projects in hand are: Garabí
with average hydraulicity currently covers (5470 GWh) and Panambi (5970 GWh) with
approximately 35% of the nation’s annual Brazil on the Uruguay River, and Itatí-Itacorá
electricity demand. If the year were to have (11300 GWh) and Corpus Christi (19000 GWh)
a high combined hydraulicity, it could cover with Paraguay, on the Paraná River. The main
45% of the demand, while in years of very low national projects are: Chihuido I on the Neuquén
hydraulicity the percentages falls to 25%. River (478 MW installed capacity), Cóndor Cliff
and Barrancosa (1740 MW installed capacity)
The largest hydropower station currently in on the Santa Cruz River, Punta Negra (62.20
operation is Yacyretá, a bi-national venture MW installed capacity) on the San Juan River,
shared with Paraguay and located on the Portezuelo del Viento on the Grande River (90
Paraná River, 100 km downriver from the MW installed capacity) and Los Blancos I and
city of Posadas. When the project is finally II (443 MW installed capacity) on the Tunuyán
completed, Yacyretá will have a total installed River, both in Mendoza.
capacity of 3,100 MW, and will be able to
generate 19,500 GWh/year. If these projects were to be built, the nation’s
capacity for hydropower generation would
The joint energy of the projects located decisively increase. The relative weight of
in the regions of Comahue, Nordeste Argentina’s hydroelectricity supply in the
and Litoral is equal to over 80% of the future would grow in new basins and would
annual hydropower supply in Argentina. be more evenly distributed along its territory.
The basins of the four main energy
generating rivers are Paraná, Uruguay, 5.1.9 Other Uses of Water
Limay and Neuquén. Attention should We particularly consider the uses linked to
be concentrated on these rivers to navigation and ports, fishing, tourism, etc. Some
analyze the influence of their combined of their characteristics are presented below.
hydraulicity on national hydroelectricity.
Navigation and Ports
The projects located on the rivers Limay and Inland waterway transport is not nearly used
Neuquén together concentrate the greatest to its potential for bulk transport by trains of
hydropower potential in the nation with 4,650 barges, although there are great possibilities
MW, or 25% of the peak hour load curve of for growth if coordination with ports of transfer
the Wholesale Electricity Market (MEM – or destination and shipping is improved, if
Mercado Eléctrico Mayorista) (19,500 MW, there are better conditions for navigation and
historical maximum recorded in July 2009). an effective sign system. Private initiative has
In addition, El Chocón, Piedra del Águila concentrated on establishing ports with very
and Cerros Colorados are the only seasonal low infrastructure and operation costs on the
reservoirs in the electricity system, that is the Paraná River that only require the maintenance
only ones with a capacity to transfer energy of canals in the Río de La Plata. This has proved
from the winter into summer. beneficial for all ports upriver from the port of
La Plata and some natural shallow-water points group affected by over-fishing within the
in the Paraná, with no need for dredging at limits of the continental shelf exclusion zone is
mooring stations or access canals. However, the squid. Although prawns are commercially
although progress is being stimulated by important, their capture is limited and the
a very significant increase in export cargo, amounts highly variable.
mainly agricultural bulk and containers, traffic
congestion has also increased on the roads River fishing is important in the Río de la Plata
leading to the ports. basin for subsistence, commercial activity in the
production of fish flour (shad), recreation and
On the other hand, a lack of coordination as a tourist attraction (sport fishing of dorado,
between agencies and deficient control of pacú, tararira, surubí and other gastronomic
real estate developments have caused poor delicacies). However, capture has not only been
exploitation of the recreational and tourist affected by the construction of the Yacyretá
potential of the ports along the Río de la and Itaipú dams, as the fish ladders do not work
Plata and Paraná River. Two exceptions that adequately, but also by over-fishing and the
illustrate this potential are the ports of Olivos appearance of exotic species (carp).
and Tigre, both of which from time to time
have combined services for a variety of users Fishing is also a recreational and touristic activity
in an articulate and harmonious way (sand of economic importance in mountain rivers. In
companies, fruit transportation companies, these areas, large scale fishing is used to supply
sporting navigation, amateur fishermen, restaurants and at certain times, for export.
visitors, the Argentine Naval Prefecture, Nevertheless it is important to limit the scale at
export of explosives, limited culinary which it is done to avoid affecting water quality.
selection). The attraction for tourism and
recreation of the port of Mar del Plata has Improved control and regulation of
not been followed by other ports along the fishing activities requires coordination and
Argentine Atlantic shore. cooperation between many agencies, and
thus must be supported by a long term
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the country approach. On one hand it is necessary to
should reconsider the possibility of developing make progress in scientific research on the
deep-water ports along its ocean shore to ecosystems involved, including activities that
allow an increase in efficient cargo movement range from the agricultural use of fertilizers,
and thus improved competitiveness in biological agents and agro-chemicals; as well
exporting goods. as marine research; investigation of food
chains and systematic follow-up of the changes
Fishing in populations of various species. On the other
The population of hake, the sea fish species hand it is also important to provide information
of the greatest importance in Argentina, has on tides, hydrology and meteorology; regulate
been calculated to have declined 70% in the catches; and study successful management
past twenty years due to over-fishing. Another strategies used in other countries.
5.1.10 Preservation of Water Quality because the Uruguay and Río de la Plata
Since the dissolution of the OSN - Obras rivers are suffering from algal blooming more
Sanitarias de la Nación (National Sanitary frequently, it is necessary for the country to
Works Company), management of water implement a reliable monitoring system.
quality and groundwater has suffered great
deterioration in Argentina. The recent conflict over the establishment of
the Botnia pulp mill company on the east bank
Companies that provide clean water monitor of the Uruguay River has attracted attention
their surface and groundwater sources, from the media over its possible impact.
although their measurements are not Nevertheless, they have not considered that
sufficient to identify sources of contamination. it would also be necessary to monitor other
Unfortunately, lack of information hinders sources of pollution along the Uruguay River
control of contaminating activities, a function that existed beforehand and that also affect
formerly performed by Sanitary Works, and water quality.
to date it has been impossible to achieve a
comprehensive approach to this and other Environments Affected by Water Quality
obstacles, and as a consequence there has The main environmental problem regarding
been continuous deterioration of hydric water that can be observed in the many
resources, especially in urban, metropolitan geographical regions of Argentina is the
and industrial areas. The creation of the consequence of a lack of discharge treatment
ACUMAR -Autoridad de la Cuenca del río (mostly industrial, residential and urban) and a
Matanza-Riachuelo (Basin Authority for the lack of adequate urban planning. An example
Matanza-Riachuelo River) arises as a new way of this is the settlement in the flood valleys
to face this issue. of the Matanza-Riachuelo and Reconquista
Rivers, and some of their tributaries.
Furthermore, the CIC-Comité Interguberna-
mental Coordinador de la Cuenca del Untreated wastewater then contaminates the
Plata (Intergovernmental Coordinating southern coastal strip of the Río de la Plata
Committee for the Río de la Plata Basin) has and part of the Paraná delta. Control is almost
tried to organize the systematic monitoring non-existent and the factories established
of water quality in the Uruguay and Paraná in those valleys generally discharge their
Rivers at the locations where they enter wastewaters untreated. Additionally, these
the country. Nevertheless budgetary issues informal settlements (shantytowns) lack
of the national and provincial agencies proper water supply and sanitation services,
involved have not allowed the initiative and to make matters worse, dump trash into
to continue. Because the Uruguay River wastepipes and canals, as they also have no
receives untreated discharge from the food solid waste collection services.
industry, mainly chicken and pork processing
facilities, as well as fertilizers and pesticides Likewise, the sustainability of surface and
from crops such as rice and soy bean, and groundwater sources faces growing threats
due to anthropic modification of land use The emblematic case of the Matanza-
in drainage basins. Non-conservationist Riachuelo basin presents all types of water
agricultural practices, deforestation, the and environmental problems: flooding of
use of agro-chemicals and changes in land residential and industrial areas, large sections
use disturb hydric balance and the quality of a population without sanitary services,
conditions of water sources. jobs for collection and processing of trash
that do not follow hygiene, safety and health
The following cases stand out in the country: preservation regulations, and industrial
• Misiones and several areas in the Bermejo activities that are frequently unreliable.
basin: increase in the amount of suspended
solids due to greater water erosion The formation of the ACUMAR -Autoridad
by deforestation, overgrazing or poor de Cuenca del Río Matanza-Riachuelo (Basin
management of arable land. Authority for the Matanza-Riachuelo River) has
• Uruguay and Negro Rivers: presence the main objective of facilitating the activities
of pesticides and fertilizers in surface of various agencies, although a single strategy
watercourses. with an overall view without which it will be
• Contamination of shallow reservoirs such impossible to reverse the processes of urban
as Río Hondo (Santiago del Estero), San and environmental deterioration, has yet to
Roque and Los Molinos lakes (Córdoba), be reached by consensus.
Lake Lacar (Neuquén) and Lake Nahuel
Huapi (Río Negro) because of untreated A second serious water-environmental
wastewaters and sewage from urban problem facing Argentina is pollution
settlements and riverside industries or of groundwater. In most of the country,
those located on the drainage basin. groundwater management is hardly efficient
• Aquifer contamination caused by and therefore there is a lack of quantitative
wastewater discharge into septic tanks, as in information necessary to assess the current
“Pueluche” in the Buenos Aires Province or state of water quality in aquifers and the
due to intensive and uncontrolled urban and tendencies in each one.
industrial development, as on the shores of
the Paraná River, from Rosario to La Plata. Although the responsibility of groundwater
• Contamination of the basins of the management lies in the provincial
Reconquista and Matanza-Riachuelo Rivers governments, these generally do not have
in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. sufficient human and financial resources to
Both basins are extremely polluted and manage a resource which is much less visible
thus directly and indirectly affect the well- than surface water. Most often, technicians
being of 5 million inhabitants. It must be specialized in drilling know groundwater
mentioned that other important cities like resources better than the authorities, either
Córdoba, Rosario and San Miguel Tucumán because studies are expensive, or because
suffer similar, although less serious there is no information on un-registered wells,
situations. most of them in many provinces.
A third water-environmental issue of importance The 67% of the world’s commerce in virtual
in Argentina is wetland deterioration due water is related to the international trade of
to a variety of causes including pollution vegetables, 23% to trade in livestock and
(Hondo River Dam), construction of drainage meat products, and the remaining 10% to
systems with poorly organized operation and trade of industrial products.
maintenance (Bajos Submeridionales), illegal Approximately 57% of Argentina’s exports
canals that alter surface runoff (in the Pampa are related to agricultural products, making it
plains), flow regulation by means of dams that one of the main exporting nations of virtual
eliminate swellings that previously caused water between 1995 and 1999, with a net
overflows used by subsistence agriculture export volume of 226.3 109 m3, only below
(Copo, San Gregorio and Figueroa marshlands the United States, Canada and Thailand.
on the Salado River in Santiago del Estero,
Dulce River marshlands) or the natural or man- 5.1.12 Water and Education
made blockage of its natural discharge points More than 90 % of the population in Argentina
(Iberá estuary). lives in large and mid-sized cities. As a
consequence, it is necessary for those who
Basin Committees provide an ideal train teachers to transmit a founded diagnosis
environment to rehearse conciliation of of the following issues: the need for safe
objectives when they become open to water in cities, the treatment and sustainable
participation through procedures that management of waste and rainwater, the
circulate initiatives and receive suggestions interactions between surface and groundwater
and proposals from the entire sector affected, with communities, as well as assessing the
before initiating management activities. potential pathways for solutions in specific
cases, considering concrete examples that are
5.1.11 Water, International Trade and applicable in the region.
Globalization: Virtual Water The Ministry of Education and The
The concept of virtual water arose in the early National Academy for Exact, Physical
1990’s and was defined as water consumed in and Natural Sciences of Argentina have
the making of a product. Water is needed to followed the guidelines established in the
make goods; therefore the water used to make “Science for all Children” and “La main
a product, whether agricultural or industrial in à la pâte” programs, developed by the
nature, is the product’s virtual water. Virtual Science Academy of the United States
water is a tool to calculate the real use of and France respectively, and translated
water in a country or its “water footprint”, the scheme to secondary level students.
and is equivalent to the total sum of domestic As one of its first activities, they have
consumption and the import of virtual water intended to introduce the topic of water
in the country, minus the export of its “virtual as fundamental and have involved experts
water” to other nations. A country’s water to interact with university professors.
footprint is a useful indicator of a country’s As an example, a positive experience with
demand on the earth’s water resources. respect to acquiring water culture at primary
and secondary education levels in Argentina Water) of the School of Veterinary Sciences at
and five other countries (Brazil, Denmark, the University of Buenos Aires.
Ghana, Thailand and Japan) can also be
mentioned. This occurred with support 5.1.13 Water Management
from the International Lake Environment In Argentina, water management has
Committee (ILEC) during the “water decade” developed in a series of steps that have not
established by the United Nations (Martinez, been the same in every one of its provinces.
1993 and 1998). Nevertheless it is useful to list various concepts
that have had an influence on the process:
Regarding education at the undergraduate • Water as a resource the use of which
and graduate levels, a national network for contributes to economic development and
training and management of water resources labor in the territory.
called Red Argentina de Capacitación y • Water as a risk factor.
Fortalecimiento de la Gestion Integrada de • Water as a resource that links various sectors
los Recursos Hídricos -ArgCapNet) (Argentine and jurisdictions in complex ways, and which
Network for Training and Strengthening requires trying new ways of organization.
Integrated Management of Hydric Resources) • Water as a resource which cannot be
has been made official. It is composed of an managed centrally due to a great variety of
important group of government, academic situations.
and non-government institutions with the • Water as a resource vulnerable to
aim to contribute to strengthen abilities for contamination and also as an element the
integrated management of water resources in management of which has a fundamental
the country, and to provide a framework that role in the protection of the environment.
is larger and more important than previous
proposals in Argentina. Each one of these ideas gave place to
Several initiatives within this framework can innovation in the organization of water
be mentioned, such as the Curso Internacional management in the following ways:
de Posgrado en Gestión Integrada de los • The creation of the Dirección Nacional
Recursos Hídricos -GIRH (International de Irrigación (National Directorate for
Postgraduate Course for Integrated Irrigation) and then the state-owned
Management of Water Resources) organized company Agua y Energía Eléctrica (Water
by both the Department of Hydraulics of and Electricity), into which it was absorbed.
the School of Engineering at the University The state-owned company Obras Sanitarias
of Buenos Aires and the Instituto Argentino de la Nación (National Sanitary Works) was
de Recursos Hídricos -IARH (Argentinian also created and became responsible for
Institute of Hydric Resources) which began clean water supply and sanitation in the
over a decade ago; and the master’s degree country’s most important cities.
in Water Management at the Centro de • The establishment of provincial directorates
Estudios Transdisciplinarios del Agua -CETA for hydraulics, with the main function of
(Center for Transdisciplinary Studies on building flood regulation works. Regulatory
frameworks for civil engineering works Negro]). During the 1980’s, Obras Sanitarias
were perfected (provincial or municipal de la Nación (National Sanitary Works) was
norms complementary to the Civil Code). cancelled and the same occurred with Agua
The Instituto Ordenador de Vertientes y Energía Eléctrica (Water And Electricity) in
e Ingeniería Forestal (IOVIF) (Institute the 1990’s. Their services were transferred
for Watershed Regulation and Forestry to the provinces and in many cases given in
Engineering) was also created, which concession to private companies.
performed studies and pilot projects on • During the last few decades of the XXth
alluvial basins. century, an “Area for the Environment” was
• Development agencies to improve established in the national and provincial
coordination between sectors to get major governments and assessment techniques
water projects under way (Corporación for environmental impact were divulged.
del Río Dulce [Dulce River Corporation], Environmental issues were included in the
Instituto para el Desarrollo del Valle reformed National Constitution of 1994
Inferior del Río Negro [Institute for the which determined that water management
Development of the Lower Negro River is the competence of provinces. Agencies
Valley], CORFO Río Colorado) were created. for hydric resources and the environment
Project assessment techniques (incremental proposed the formation of federal councils
analysis of social and economic impact) were -Consejo Hídrico Federal (COHIFE)
divulged during the second half of the XXth (Federal Hydric Council) and Consejo
century. In addition, interprovincial basin Federal del Medio Ambiente (COFEMA)
committees were created to promote joint (Federal Council for the Environment), to
projects (for example, Comisión Técnica promote coordination between provinces
Interprovincial del Río Colorado – COTIRC in issues that are not the competence of
[Technical Interprovincial Commission for basin committees or agencies.
the Río Colorado]).
• Hydric Resources Areas were created The elimination of the state-owned Agua
within national and provincial governments, y Energía Eléctrica (Water and Electricity)
providing various alternatives regarding and Obras Sanitarias de la Nación
their competence and institutional ranks. (National Sanitary Works) transferred the
Interprovincial basin committees were administration of water resources and
created for interjurisdictional coordination management of irrigation, clean water
and so were basin agencies to implement and sanitation services to the provincial
interjurisdictional agreements (for example, governments. In most cases, management
Comité Interprovincial del Río Colorado quality has consequently declined because
– COIRCO [Interprovincial Agency for the of inadequate financing and poor technical
Colorado River] and Agencia Interprovincial and management teams.
de Cuencas de los ríos Limay, Neuquén y There have been several causes for the lack
Negro –AIC [Interprovincial Agency for the of financing for water management. The
Basins of the Rivers Limay, Nuequén and most important of these was that Agua y
Energía Eléctrica obtained financial resources management and if provinces also increase
from electricity production that allowed it provincial funds for this purpose as a direct
to adequately fund essential functions such response to popular demand.
as studies and projects, hydrometeorologic
monitoring, management of regulatory and Two recent developments in the sphere of
legal issues, and the coordination between water management reveal the consensus that
sectors and jurisdiction. Likewise, Obras has been reached regarding the importance
Sanitarias de la Nación operated in areas of promoting coordination and participation:
where land occupation and socioeconomic the interjurisdictional agreement on
level provided an income that was sufficient Principios Rectores de Política Hídrica (PRPH)
to cover all of its functions (one of its legal (Governing Principles on Water Policies) and
advisory functions was establishing norms Plan Nacional Federal de Recursos Hídricos
on use and extraction of groundwater). (PNFRH) (National Federal Plan for Hydric
An additional cause of deterioration was Resources), that promote formulation of
that although the federation transferred provincial and sectoral hydric plans.
the infrastructure of these two important
companies to the provinces, it did not transfer Argentina has taken a significant and
the necessary resources for their operation irreversible step toward water management
and maintenance, nor the trained personnel at the provincial level, because the diversity
needed for these activities. and extension of centralized management
that makes it unviable. However, to complete
Because people in most provinces this process it will be necessary to decidedly
are not accustomed to improve the move forward in two concrete aspects. One is
management of water by demanding or to include new topics in education regarding
proposing constructively, the decision- practical issues facing water management,
making authorities that assign budgetary thus complementing learning of physical
resources to the provinces do not receive aspects that are already part of the curricula.
requests for a greater allocation of financial The other is to include specialized subjects
resources to water management (most and practical activities to teach fundamental
popular demands regard issues such as concepts on organization and management
social services, job creation and housing). in all specialized disciplines that must
Consequently, water management in most participate in hydric management.
provinces continues to depend on financial
aid from the federation, which implies that 5.1.14 Summary
the decentralization process has not achieved In summary, and as a consequence of
the objective of providing real independence comparing Argentina with other countries
to provincial decisions. This situation will only in the region, the nation faces a series of
be overcome if the Nation increases the co- significant challenges to attain integrated
participation of its provinces in national taxes management of its hydric resources that
specifically directed to strengthening water would turn into greater well-being for its
people and fit in the paradigm of sustainable assigned is in many cases due to factors
development. that do not depend exclusively on decisions
Overcoming these challenges can be regarding water supply services or the
achieved with the development of an agenda management of infrastructure works.
of structural and non-structural activities,
prior consensus by public and private sectors, The worldwide objective of achieving
which corresponds to a strategic long-term efficient, fair and sustainable use of water is
vision on the use of hydric resources, and usually interpreted as the same as achieving
that translates into increased investment and guaranteed access to basic water supply and
greater efficacy and efficiency levels in its sanitation services, in addition to universal
execution. protection against flooding and sustainable
use of water for the entire population.
5.2 Challenges to the Management Currently, some regions show they have
of Hydric Resources in Argentina reached the first two specific objectives and
The overall view presented in this document are taking measures to achieve the third.
on the current meaning of water in the world, Nevertheless, the great majority of the
Latin America and Argentina, enables to regions of the world, including many nations
appreciate the existence of a clear tendency with abundant water resources or those with
of water demand growing faster than its considerable income, are far from reaching
supply. Nevertheless, this vision also reveals the first two.
that water management faces challenges that
vary greatly from one nation to the other and Therefore, the main challenges facing water
from one region to another, as the various management in many countries refer not
factors that influence needs and opportunities only to the basic tendencies that determine
can combine in many ways. supply and demand, in other words the
impact of population growth and income on
Analyses show that the achievement of the water demand, but also the impact of climate
main objectives in water management is not change and the increasing production of
clearly related to the provision of water per effluents and contaminating wastes.
person in each region or community, or to
its income per capita. This implies that the In nearly all countries these basic tendencies
challenges in water management are not are present to a certain extent and it is
only limited to finding new ways to increase important to point out that some of them
availability and reduce demand. have been able to appease, and at times
revert, the tendencies towards growth in
Although the scarcity of water and technical- water demand per person and in the amount
financial resources that facilitate the increase of contaminants spilled into bodies of water.
in water availability, are no doubt extremely For this purpose they have designed policies
important factors, it is relevant to note that that combine structural activities with the
the poor efficacy with which resources are application of management tools, including
providing information and raising awareness The following negative tendencies are not
in the population, and involving various directly related to water management:
sectors in the negotiation of agreements • Human settlements in floodable areas.
necessary to change the tendencies • Precarious settlements in city outskirts of
threatening the sustainability of social and poor immigrants that cannot pay for water
economic organization. and urban management services.
These cases lead the way for other • Increase in the spilling of non-treated
countries; however it is not enough to copy effluents in rivers and lakes.
technological or organizational solutions, as • The continued and increasing tendency to
it is also essential to promote changes in the charge very low fees for water services for
attitude of the people through the use of the reasons other than water management.
management tools mentioned above. • The excessive use of agro-chemicals that
contaminate aquifers.
5.2.1 Harmful Tendencies • Rapidly expanding aquaculture that
In addition to the tendencies mentioned threatens to become an important factor
previously, there are other tendencies that may for water contamination if techniques
avoid the attainment of water management to guarantee its sustainability are not
objectives if they are not dealt with in a timely developed.
manner. Some of these are directly related • Limited progress regarding environmental
to failure in water management, but others and economic education for improving
result from the prevalence of non-sustainable awareness about the value of water and the
practices in productive activities or land zoning. social and environmental cost of poor water
management, as well as the need to preserve
The following are some of the negative hydric resources and the environment.
tendencies regarding the management of
water resources: These tendencies are clearly the result of
• Excessive regulation of certain rivers. views that ignore that the complexity of water
• Non-sustainable use of aquifers and a lack management implies that partial proposals
of adequate management of groundwater. intended to avoid problems in certain fields
• Poor response from those responsible usually aggravate problems in other fields.
for the management of water and energy
towards those in opposition to the building Therefore it is fundamental to create
of dams for hydropower production. mechanisms that allow decision-making based
• Poor quantification of industrial and urban on the coordination of all sectors involved.
effluents, the cost of which increases more
rapidly than the resources for dealing with 5.2.2 Main Actions to Contain Harmful
them as transgressions rise. Tendencies
• Water supply for irrigation at a very highly One of the causes of the harmful and
subsidized cost, thus stimulating the unsustainable tendencies mentioned above
inefficient use of water. is not having been able to integrate the
plans of numerous independent agencies and awareness campaigns among the
and organizations. Integration is necessary to population.
identify the issues they have in common and • Increase awareness among groundwater
to search jointly for viable solutions. users on the importance of participative
management that can guarantee
The following actions, mainly realized in sustainability.
developed countries but also to some degree • Promote the improvement of technologies
in Latin America, have the objective of that obtain freshwater from sea water,
controlling the processes that already affect the through subsidies for the activities that use
accomplishment of the aims of hydric resource them in a limited time span.
management, or that threaten to do so:
• Improve fee systems and the charging for The most important actions in Argentina are:
water services by means of mechanisms • Execution of expansion and improvement
that allow subsidies only for vulnerable and works to guarantee universal access to
needy populations, and encourage the rest water and sanitation services.
to adopt sustainable behaviors. • Fee scheme: agreement on fee levels and
• Promote the use of techniques that save improved fee collection.
water in all of its uses and which facilitate • Promotion of plans for urban recovery in all
its reuse. cities, respecting criteria that ensure their
• Recover rivers: give them back the part of consistency.
the flood valley that has been occupied by • The necessary awareness to install systems
urban or industrial developments, as far for groundwater management in all
as economically possible, and eliminate provinces.
sources of contamination. • Awareness campaigns to sustain firmer action
• Increase awareness among groundwater from agencies that supervise observance of
users on the importance of participative norms forbidding contamination of rivers,
management that can guarantee lakes, aquifers and shores.
sustainability • Construction of new hydroelectric ventures.
• Expand organic agriculture which is in • Promotion of awareness among farmers on
increasing demand due to its undisputable the sustainable use of agro-chemicals.
health benefits. This would imply less • Promotion of organic agriculture.
contamination of water resources, and
therefore its promotion is of interest to 5.2.3 Aspects in which Coordination and
water management. Cooperation among Sectors is Essential
• Study new locations for hydropower Experience on water management
projects. accumulated throughout centuries has
• Eliminate spilling of untreated effluents by proved that cooperation among sectors
means of a combination of programs to aid and jurisdictions is a necessary condition to
activities that will deal with both investment accomplish the objectives of integrated water
and current expenditure for treatment, management.
In this context, it is essential to reach and jurisdictional actors allowing consensus
agreements regarding two key aspects: to be reached and providing a rational base to
• A consensus with respect to the basic combine aid mechanisms for people, sectors,
needs of the people. or jurisdictions, while maintaining economic
• Coordinated action between urban, water incentives that promote healthy competition
and environmental management. in as many spheres as possible.

One of the main objectives of the integrated 5.2.4 The Role or Coordination and
management of hydric resources should be Cooperation Between Fields
to coordinate the management of sectors The considerations mentioned above imply
with influence on decisions regarding the the additional need to bring together tools
establishment of persons and businesses. from a variety of fields such as engineering,
economics, sociology, urban planning, law
Policies used by certain countries to avoid and management within a common vision.
migration flows that tend to destabilize the This global viewpoint would on the one hand
finances of both cities of origin as well as make clear that agreements fixing minimum
cities of destination, have generally relied standards for water and sanitation services,
on giving aid to the former to increase their as well as flood prevention must consider
attractiveness as places to live and do business the limitations imposed by economics and
by providing better services and opportunities technology, and on the other allow to agree on
for productive activities. As with any aid goals and thresholds to be considered as data
mechanism, this policy has not been easily for economic analysis performed by public and
implemented, although it has been successful private agencies and for urban planning.
in some countries.
The most noticeable case has been the A fundamental objective of hydric management
generous aid provided by the former West is to promote a climate of cooperation that
Germany to the former East Germany which is essential to reach agreements between
helped avoid migration on a grand scale that sectors, jurisdictions and actors, regarding not
would have caused enormous economic and only the goals and thresholds mentioned but
social costs in both regions. also in search of the least expensive solutions
to accomplish them. Cost-effectiveness is
This is a useful example of the implications important because achieving management
of the concept of integrated management: that coordinates the various uses of water for
it not only includes intersectoral coordination the purpose of maximizing reuse and reducing
but also interjurisdictional coordination on purification and treatment costs in each water
a national scale between sectors indirectly basin is generally a necessary complement to
related to water. market mechanisms. To promote cooperation
Thus an essential objective of water among agencies, and also between agencies
management is to promote an atmosphere and individuals, all relevant information
of collaboration between the various sectoral needed to understand the challenges faced
by management must be made public. two priority areas have been selected as
Awareness campaigns are also important having the greatest prospects regarding
before taking governmental measures, so the technical and political viability, social and
population understands what these measures environmental urgency and economic
are for and has the possibility to express their feasibility after considering their general
opinions and interests in a timely manner. repercussions and foreseeable externalities.
These areas are “water supply and sanitation”
Sufficient human and financial resources and “hydroelectricity supply”. The challenges
are another requisite for the fulfillment of and proposals for the development of hydric
hydric management responsibilities. This can resources in both areas are presented below.
only be accomplished if the people know
the problems confronted by management 5.3.1 Water and Sanitation
and have information on how these can be The main challenge faced by the nation in
solved, as the corresponding taxes and the area of clean water and sanitation is
contributions will only be sustainable if universal supply.
their purpose is understood and justified
properly. Indeed, it is fundamental to remind There is an urgent need to supply the millions
the population continuously that payment of inhabitants that lack clean water and
for water management services has two sanitary sewage. Likewise, it is indispensible
functions: to stimulate efficient use of water to execute works that allow treatment
and infrastructure and also to cover at least of wastewaters and to create awareness
part of the costs for providing these services. among government officials, professionals,
technicians, operators and the population
It is generally accepted that sanitation must at large on the rational use of water and the
be guaranteed by governments and that all protection of its quality.
people have the right to a minimum supply of
clean water, no matter if they are able to pay Among others, this creates the following
for it. Nevertheless, the search for the least challenges:
expensive ways to reach such goals through
cooperation agreements must be balanced a. To design and execute socially and
with additional agreements that promote economically sustainable investment plans
rational use of water in all sectors. that establish universal services as a priority
and guarantee financing in the appropriate
5.3 Proposals for the Development cases by assigning necessary funds within the
of Hydric Resources in two Priority budgets of public organizations.
Areas: Water and Sanitation,
and Water and Energy According to information from studies on
To complete this work with concrete the investment required to provide universal
proposals, and according to the information, access to services in Argentina (IBD, 2005,
viewpoint and experience of the authors, 2007), an estimated 10,000 million dollars
would be needed if “access to safe drinking resources would allow to shorten the required
water”, “improved sanitation” and wastewater time to achieve universal access to safe water
treatment were included under this term. and improved sanitation.
This estimate is a minimum, considering
the quality of the services contemplated. b. To improve economic sustainability of the
If the goal was to universalize both services service and greater rationality in fee schemes.
including network connections in urban areas
and a greater degree of effluent treatment, At present, tariff income for services in many
this amount would at least double. major Argentinian cities is insufficient to cover
operation and maintenance (O&M) costs.
The many social benefits (externalities)
associated to universal access to adequate The rationale behind the fee scheme is given
clean water and sanitation services justify by its capacity to financially sustain the service,
such an investment. These benefits include which in turn depends on the extent to which
improved health and its impact on education fee value reflects its cost. The use of micro-
and jobs; reduction in expenses for alternative measurement as a base to billing according to
solutions, including the cost of bottled water; consumed volume, contributes to economic
and improved environmental conditions, all sustainability because it promotes a reduction
of which directly affect quality of life. in non-essential consumption.

A WHO report has calculated that the cost- Chile, Colombia and some of the most
benefit ratio of investment in water and important operating services in Brazil (the
sanitation systems in a group of countries state of Sao Pablo, among others) have
including Argentina would be approximately developed lengthy and systematic processes
15. This means that for every currency unit to fix fees based on costs and they have led
invested, there would be 15 times the benefit. to a significant real-term increase in income
Likewise, if total coverage for both services for the service providers. In addition, these
including connection to a public network is regions have implemented the generalized
contemplated, then the cost-benefit ratio micro-measurement of consumption. The cost
would be 5. Both of these scenarios lead to of water and sanitation services in Santiago
positive socio-economic benefits. (Chile) and Sao Pablo (Brazil) is close to US$1
per m3, in Bogotá (Colombia) it is close to
The differences between them basically result US$1.5; while in contrast, in the metropolitan
from the much greater cost of expanding area of Buenos Aires the average cost is only
water and sanitation networks than to invest US$ 0.17per m3.
in “improved services”, while the benefits
obtained by each solution are not equally While micro-measurement in these countries
proportional to the respective costs. In this is practiced nearly in their entirety, it is
regards, installing service of lower quality estimated that only 20% of the billed volume
in countries or areas with less economic in major urban areas in Argentina is the result
of micro-measurement of consumed water. reducing the amount of water that is not
One of the main conditions for the success accounted for. In main urban areas, losses
of this practice is that fee values are fixed at from water systems are in the range of 40
a level that allows the recovery of O&M costs to 45% of the volume of water produced.
and at least some of the investment costs, To reduce such losses would produce
especially those associated to maintenance significant benefits as a result of lower
and restoration of infrastructure. operation costs and less investment in
installed capacity in plants, networks and
Nevertheless, subsidy systems must be other facilities.
implemented to aid poorer or more vulnerable
households that do not have the conditions It is worth noting that in calculating benefits,
to pay fees that cover costs.7 only the direct impact of cost reduction
regarding operation and investment
It is worth noting that in many countries, (greater installed capacity available in
no matter the state of their economies, plants, networks and other facilities) is
investment in basic water and sanitation considered, while required investments and
works is to a great extent covered by their incremental O&M expenses are accounted
governments, and there are no expectations for as costs.
to recover investment through fees, as a Regarding this issue, the generalization of
result of the extremely important social and micro-measurement would help detect network
environmental impact of these services. As losses more precisely and contribute to more
mentioned previously, in countries or regions efficient management by service operators.
with poor socio-economic development, it Finally, there is a need for a specific and
is advisable to first provisionally reduce the independent legal and institutional framework
quality standard of the services to be able
to attain sooner the much needed universal 7 In the context of a critical evaluation of how
coverage. urban water supply services are privatized
according to “Washington’s favorite solution”,
Sachs, J. (2008) suggests: “An efficient
c. To increase efficacy levels of operator agreement between public management and
management and coordination between privatization can be achieved by demanding
that private suppliers offer a minimum vital fee
sectors and jurisdictions. that guarantees all families a fixed amount of
water daily free of charge for vital necessities
(drinking, cooking and hygiene). The amount
Sustainability of water services by means
consumed beyond this minimum would be
of fee income demands improved charged at market values per cubic meter.
management efficiency and the resulting In this way, even the poorest people would
have a minimum guaranteed amount of
minimization of costs. water.”… “Depending on the exact structure
of the public-private enterprise and the norms
An area of special interest in cost reduction regulating prices, money from the public sector
budget could be used to reimburse the water
and improved efficiency in the sector is supplier for the free minimum water supply.”
minimizing physical losses, in other words, (pp. 185 and 186).
as well as technical and financial regulation participates directly in decisions to expand
for fees to reflect efficient costs. services, mainly in suburban and rural areas.
Likewise, it is important to mention the
d. To perfect the information system regarding organization of operating entities in the form
management and results. of user’s cooperatives, which is very common
in Argentina, especially in small and mid-sized
Making fee schemes reflect costs and making localities8.
them cost-efficient is related to the quality of
the corresponding accounting and technical Suggested actions to overcome the
information. Some Latin American countries challenges considered:
have made important efforts in this regard,
such as systems for regulatory accounting • Promote and prioritize investment in the
in Chile, Colombia and Peru, as well as the sector in light of the resulting benefits of its
AMBA services in Argentina. impact on public health, the environment,
the economy in general, poverty reduction
At a regional level, efforts have been made and social cohesion.
in the past few years to organize a system • Establish explicit incentive mechanisms
of indicators for comparative analysis for efficient management of operation
(benchmarking) through the Asociación de companies and the rational use of services.
Entes Reguladores de Agua y Saneamiento Fee schemes should include incentives to
de las Américas (ADERASA) (Association of rationalize water consumption and supply,
Regulatory Entities for Water and Sanitation by means of a significant increase in micro-
in the Americas). measurement of the volumes consumed by
users for example, as well as investment to
e. To promote participation of civil society reduce losses in the water networks.
and local authorities. • Fix fee levels so they cover the costs of O and
M and at least part of capital amortization,
Participation of civil society and local apart from considering subsidies for users
authorities is an essential mechanism to without the capacity to pay.
ensure that water and sanitation services • Strengthen regulation and control
are provided with the required quality, that of services and guarantee that the
universal coverage is achieved as soon as agencies responsible for these functions
possible, and that fees are fair and reasonable. are technically capable and can act
Civil society can participate through non- independently.
governmental organizations or by taking part
in public opinion consultations regarding 8 There are close to 750 user´s cooperatives
investment plans and other relevant aspects that provide clean water services in Argentina
and they represent approximately 17% of the
of the service, in public hearings or in the user
population with water service from a network
committees organized by regulatory entities. in the country.
There are also cases in which the community
• Improve legal and institutional mechanisms The part corresponding to hydropower in a
for the participation of society and local year of average joint hydraulicity is 35%.
authorities. This includes better diffusion and Assuming a 4% annual growth in demand
communication regarding the performance and in order to supply 40% of the demand
of operators and control authorities, as well with hydroelectricity (as advised by energy
as increasing educational activities on the specialists) and thus achieve a more balanced
issues of clean water and sanitation and the energy supply, an additional 43,000 GWh/year
importance of preserving public health and must be added by other projects along rivers
the environment, especially in primary and that are not shared with other countries such
secondary schools. as Cóndor Cliff, La Barrancosa, Paraná Medio,
and El Chihuido 1, plus 5,000 GWh/year from
5.3.2 Water and Energy an increase to full capacity (83 meter level) of
The nation faces the challenge of increasing the Yacyretá.
hydropower participation within the
conventional supply to generate extensive Table 6 shows the anticipated installed
amounts of electricity (Hydro + Thermal + capacity and the estimated building costs of
Nuclear power). This creates the following reservoirs on non-shared rivers.
challenges, among others:
Suggested actions to overcome the challenge
a. To promote the development of hydropower considered:
works in regions of the country where not
only the characteristics necessary to generate • To carry out the relevant studies and
hydropower exist, but where there would projects to complete the design of the main
also be additional benefits associated to the reservoirs and energy-generating works in
control of swellings, regulation of flow and both national rivers and those shared with
the addition of reservoirs. It was previously other countries.
mentioned that Argentina has a hydropower
potential of 130,000 GWh/year in projects Many of these tasks imply updating original ideas
inventoried in various stages of development. proposed several decades ago regarding today’s
However only 35,000 GWh/year correspond technical design and multipurpose reservoir
to works currently in operation. The country operation for the generation of hydropower.
would not only benefit from the clean energy In particular, there is a need for complete and
generated, but also from the control of updated studies to assess environmental impact
flows and floods, especially in Andean and of the work on a local and basin scale.
Patagonian regions where water is scarce.
b. To promote hydropower works that allow a • To bring these studies together with
more balanced energy supply with an average project assessment that considers not only
joint hydraulicity of close to 40% of demand. benefits but also direct and indirect impact
Current electricity demand in Argentina is close or externalities on socioeconomic activities
to de 115,000 GWh/year. and the environment.
Table 6. Installed Capacity and the Estimated Building Costs of Reservoirs on Non-Shared Rivers.

River Province Reservoir installed Investment US$/kw
potential (MW) (millions of US$)
Neuquén Neuquén Chihuido I 637 1.500 2.35
Cóndor Cliff and
Santa Cruz Santa Cruz 1.740 4.000 2.30
San Juan San Juan Punta Negra 62 380 6.13
Portezuelo del
Grande Mendoza 90 265 2.94
Los Blancos I
Tunuyán Mendoza 480 1.000 2.08
and II
Sources: Ing. Luis Bergman (EBISA); Ing. Juan Lucchilo (CAMMESA)

These elements are necessary to promote such as a reduced impact of greater prices for
management linked to the viability of the oil and oil derivatives, energy production with
investment required to develop projects and low environmental impact and no greenhouse
determine their priority with participation and gas emissions, regional development related
approval from the social actors involved. to water supply and water availability for
irrigation, and the possible development of
• To analyze electricity fees in comparison sporting and tourism activities.
to international data to make power Based on these criteria, it seems reasonable
generation viable and thus determine how to orient public investment to build works
much of the investment needed can come accordingly. Aligning fees with international
from fee collection. standards will allow more interest from
private investment both in the construction
A general assessment of the energy market and operation of new venues.
in our country makes it clear that fee
levels for energy are close to 20% below • To work with Brazil and Paraguay in the
the international average. Major energy planning, building and usufruct of the
consumers, representing less than 5% of the energy produced by the Garabí dam on
demand, pay greater fees, although they do the Uruguay River, and Corpus Christi on
not go beyond international prices. Table the Paraguay River, for the purpose of
7 and FIG. 10. compare fees for electricity guaranteeing their development and to
(in particular thermal energy companies) benefit each of the parties.
in several Latin American countries.
Hydropower is an underestimated resource in Garabi dam. This project on the Alto Uruguay
our country and there is a need to promote the promoted by EBISA & ELECTROBRAS,
development of works to increase diversity of considers the building of two dams, Garabi
supply. This would bring long-term benefits and Panambi, with 1,152 and 1,048 MW

FIG. 10. Electricity Costs for Residential Customer Rd. Minimum Electric Power – 200kWh/month – BT. March/2010.

Table 7. Main Features of Electricity Suppliers and the Concession Areas

Electricity Customers
Country (Customers/Km2) Concession Area
Suppliers (December 2009)
(December 2009)
EDENOR Greater Buenos Aires-
Argentina 2,626,000 566
Federal Capital
COPEL Brazil 4,030,000 21 Panamá
CHILECTRA Chile 1,579,000 746 Santiago
CODENSA Colombia 2,364,000 168 Bogotá
CNFL Costa Rica 487,000 540 San José
EEQSA Ecuador 809,000 55 Quito
CAESS El Salvador 521,000 114 San Salvador - Central
ANDE Paraguay 1,159,000 3 The Whole Country
LUS DEL SUR Lima Metropolitana-
Perú 833,000 301
Southern Zone
EDE Este Santo Domingo-
Dominican Rep. 348,000 30
East Zone
UTE Uruguay 1,283,000 7 The Whole Country
EDC Venezuela 1,154,000 223 Caracas- Central District
Main Energy Customers by Sector
Customers Electric Power Consumption Voltage
Residential Minimum
Rd 200 kWh/month BT
Re 400 kWh/month BT
Commercial Cd 10 kW 1.000 kWh/month BT
Cef 10 kW 2.000 kWh/month BT
Industrial Ie 100 kW 25.000 kWh/month MT
If 300 kW 50.0000 kWh/month MT

respectively and a joint average annual c. The reduction of the impact of a potential
energy of close to 11,440 GWh. It is important increase in oil and its products in the future.
to quicken the studies on the technical, d. The opportunity to give hydropower
economic and geologic viability of these two works other uses that are as important as
potential dams. electricity generation, although less profitable
(controlling swellings, irrigation, tourism,
Corpus Christi. This hydroelectric dam is navigation, etc.).
planned to be built on the upper course of the e. The development of a region for the
Parana River, close to the town of Corpus in the purpose of balancing it with others and thus
Argentinian province of Misiones and Puerto avoid migration for geopolitical reasons.
Bella Vista in Paraguay, some 50 kilometers In conclusion, it is not the potentially high fees
northeast of the cities of Posadas in Argentina which take so long to recover what may generate
and Encarnación in Paraguay. It will have an this type of intensive investment of capital in the
elevation of 105 masl and work coordinately future, but rather government decisions which
with the existing Yacyretá (Argentina- result from political power and the conviction of
Paraguay) and Itaipú (Brasil-Paraguay) projects the importance of development.
and with the Itacorá-Itatí (Argentina-Paraguay)
dam currently under construction. 6. Interjurisdictional and
International Hydric
At present, the possible project in Pindo-í is Resources (Appendix I)
under consideration. It is proposed to have The National Constitution states that the
140 MW Kaplan turbines, a planned installed original command over rivers belongs to
capacity of 2,880 MW; it would produce an provinces (Art. 124) while the Civil Code
average annual amount of 20,175 GWH, and establishes that water is a good of public
would affect 13,966 has. of land. domain (Section 2340, subsection 1).
However, these legislative bodies do no
Additional Comments typify the relationship established between
The construction of hydropower projects provinces bathed by the same waters.
of medium to large capacity has been many Consequently, when a basin spans over the
times proved to be highly unlikely without territory of several provinces or of a province
the predominant participation of national or and the city of Buenos Aires, each jurisdiction
provincial governments, especially in a country could adopt decisions that could harm the
under the conception and economic structure others or miss the opportunity to manage
of Argentina. Taking this into consideration, the basin rationally and fairly without being
what potential impact would convince the outside the law.
State to promote hydroelectric projects? The most adequate way to accomplish
a. The increase the reliability of electricity coordinated management of water is within
supply by diversifying its sources. a basin viewpoint. Agreements are usually
b. The reduction of greenhouse gas emission the most adequate way to coordinate water
of the installed generating capacity. management, although in some cases
participation of the national authority has that culminated in a definitive study by the
been proposed and put into practice. United States’ Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. Its results were considered an
The reform to the constitution of 1949 adequate base for an agreement by the
authorized the National Congress to legislate technical and political standards of the five
(Art. 68, paragraph 14) and the Executive provinces of the basin.
power to execute the policy on interprovincial
rivers (Art. 83, paragraph 2) and to nationalize In 1983 the Comité Interjurisdiccional del Río
waterfalls (Art. 40), although it was revoked Colorado (Interjurisdictional Committee for
by a Constituent Convention in 1957. Law the Colorado River) was formed to oversee
13030 conferred regulatory faculties on the observance of the agreement, funded by
interprovincial rivers to a national agency to the provinces and the national government
guarantee rational and harmonious use along (Law 22721).
their entire course, although it is not applied.
An agreement celebrated by the National
In 1948, Tucumán and Salta celebrated a treaty State with the Northwestern Provinces
for the construction of a dike on the Tala River created the Hydric Basin Committees for
and to share its water equally (National Law the basins in the region (San Salvador de
956, decreed August 7, 1948; sanctioned June Jujuy, January 18, 1971, and ratified by
30, 1948). national decree 4361/71). This originated
the Basin Committees of the rivers Salí
In 1956 the Comisión Técnica Interprovincial Dulce and Pasaje Juramento Salado.
Permanente del Río Colorado, COTIRC The Hydric Basin Committee for the
(Permanent Interprovincial Technical Bermejo River was also created by decree
Committee of the Colorado River (Tratado de (Resistencia, April 14, 1972) and another
Santa Rosa, August 30, 1956), formed by the was created on similar bases for the basin
Basin Provinces (Buenos Aires, Mendoza, La of the Gran Rosario. Another agreement
Pampa, Neuquén and Río Negro) promoted between the national government and
an interprovincial agreement on the use the governments of Córdoba and San
of river waters that was subscribed in the Luis created the Basin Committee of the
Sexta Conferencia de Gobernadores del Río Quinto-Conlara Basin (September 19,
Colorado (Sixth Conference for the Colorado 1979). Some of these basins are sub-
River) on October 26, 1976, formally defined basins of the Paraná Basin, which is in turn
in February 1977 and ratified by National a tributary of the Río de La Plata.
Law 21611 January 8, 1977 and Laws 8663
of the Province of Buenos Aires, 750 of the The committees’ mission was simply to
Province of La Pampa, 4116 of the Province formulate recommendations, supervise the
of Mendoza, 964 of the Province of Neuquén collection and analysis of data regarding
and 1191 of the Province of Río Negro. The water and to promote studies and research
agreement was based on numerous studies to assess the use of hydric resources in each
basin. They were intra-federal, decentralized, Río Negro, Buenos Aires), who built and
multi-jurisdictional and singular agencies with manages the Casa de Piedra Reservoir.
capacity in public law because they originated
within interprovincial agreements and acts of c. Comisión Regional del Río Bermejo
the National Government. (COREBE) (Regional Commission for the
Bermejo River), a regional development
The Basin Committee for the Salí Dulce River corporation, to carry on studies and
became the Comité Intrejurisdiccional de la projects regarding the Bermejo River.
Cuenca del Río Salí Dulce (Interjurisdictional It includes the National State and the
Committee of the Basin of the Salí Dulce provinces of Chaco, Formosa, Jujuy,
River) in January 2007, with the signing of Salta, which are found in the basin, and
an interjurisdictional treaty between the five the provinces of Santa Fe and Santiago
basin provinces and the Nation. Its aim is del Estero who expect to benefit from its
to promote the drawing of a Management management (Convenio de Buenos Aires
Plan for the basin with consensus between [Buenos Aires Agreement], 10/2/81 ratified
all parties, to be executed by the by national law 22697).
strengthening of provincial agencies for
water and the environment. d. Autoridad Interjurisdiccional de las
Cuencas de los Ríos Limay, Neuquén y Negro
The basin committees for the rivers Juramento- (Interjurisfictional Authority for the Basins of
Salado and the northwestern region of the La the Rivers Limay, Neuquén and Negro) created
Pampa plains, which receives extraordinary by the interjurisdictional agreement signed
contributions from the Quinto River, are near in Neuquén on December 16, 1985 by the
the signing of interjurisdictional treaties similar National State and the provinces of Neuquén,
to the one for the Salí Dulce River. Río Negro and Buenos Aires (ratified by
National Law 23896). It receives resources
The following were also created with from hydropower generation and performs
participation of the National Government: hydrometeorologic and coordination tasks. In
spite of its name, it does not have functions
a. Comité Intergubernamental Coordinador expressly delegated from provincial agencies
de la Cuenca del Plata (Intergovernmental with competence in hydric management.
Coordinating Committee of the Plata Basin),
to coordinate the activities of the provinces e. Autoridad de la Cuenca Matanza-Riachuelo
in the basin, between provinces, with the (ACUMAR) (Authority for the Matanza-
National Government and between the Riachuelo Basin), an interjurisdictional public-
National Government and foreign states law institution formed by the National State,
that share the basin (Law 23027). the province of Buenos Aires and the Ciudad
Autónoma de Buenos Aires (Independent
b. The Executive Entity Presa Embalse Casa City of Buenos Aires) (Law 26168, Art. 1).
de Piedra (National Government, La Pampa, Its functions include regulation, control and
promotion of industrial activities; unification a. Subordinates the use of contiguous rivers
of disposal schemes for wastewater in bodies to previous agreements between riparian
of water and gas emissions; provision of countries.
public services, other environmental activities,
prevention, sanitation, restructuring and b. Allows each nation to use successive
rational use of natural resources; planning for sections of the rivers they share9 according to
environmental management of the basin and their needs, but without causing considerable
the execution of the Plan Integral de Control de damage to the other States.
la Contaminación y Recomposición Ambiental
(Comprehensive Plan for the Control of In the United Nations Conference on the
Environmental Restructuring and Pollution). Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972),
Because Argentina is found on the lower Argentina achieved recognition of the
section of the Río de la Plata Basin, it has always obligation to notify well in advance of
had a special interest in the development and “important activities regarding water that may
exploitation of the basin within international have a significant effect on another country”
agreements. Whenever a basin spans several (Recommendation 51). In the UN Conference
nations, one nation might adopt decisions on Environment and Development (Río
that could harm another or the opportunity to de Janeiro, 1992) Argentina attained the
manage the basin comprehensively and fairly recommendation to avoid causing harm to
might be missed. the environment of other nations and regions
beyond the limits of national jurisdiction
To achieve comprehensive and fair water (Principle 2), and also to provide prior and
management, it is best to focus it on each timely information to potentially affected
individual basin, which requires the intention States on activities that may have significant
of the nations involved. For this reason, within adverse transboundary effect and to consult
the VII International Conference of American with those States at an early stage and in
States, the Montevideo Statement on the use good faith (Principle 19). The UN Conference
and exploitation of international basins in the on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg,
American continent, which is a principle for 2002) committed the signatories to increase
international law and has been followed by access to basic needs such as clean water.
further statements along the same lines, was In the bi-national scope, Argentina and
issued (1933). It has promoted the formation Uruguay have accomplished true models of
of a regional system for the Plata basin which international practice. To build and operate
approved principles applicable to international the works at Salto Grande, they reached
basins and some particular recommendations
9 In the resolution quoted, “international rivers
for specific works. Within the Asunción
of successive course” refers to rivers that
Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs run from one country to another, such as the
and from the many negotiations within the Paraguay and Uruguay Rivers when they run
from Brazil to Argentina; while rivers that
framework of the Plata Basin system arose separate countries are called contiguous
Resolution No. 25 on June 3, 1971 which: rivers.
agreements (Treaties signed 12/30/46, on the river (La Paz, Bolivia, February 9,1995;
11/26/58 and 10/20/72), provided timely approved by Law 24677). This commission
information on the projects to Brazil and received important financial support from
accepted its observations to avoid the edge the European Union, allowing it to engage
of the reservoir from harming its environment the formulation of a Master Plan for the
(Joint Argentinian- Brazilian –Uruguayan development of the basin. At present, this
Statement of Buenos Aires, September 23, plan is being executed at the pace allowed by
1960). They reached agreements again for the the collection of funds from various sources.
Plata and Uruguay Rivers (Treaties signed on
11/19/73 and 2/26/75, Laws 20645 and 21413) Bolivia and Argentina created the Comisión
that regulate the use and preservation of these Binacional para el Desarrollo de la Alta
rivers. The environmentally respectful behavior Cuenca del Río Bermejo y el Río Grande de
always shown by both countries could not Tarija (COBINABE) (Binational Commission for
avoid the controversy brought up by Argentina the Development of the Basin of the Bermejo
against Uruguay due to the installation of pulp River and Río Grande de Tarija), to perform
mill plants; this was settled by the International studies, research, projects and works, as
Court of Justice at The Hague in 2010. well as exercise certain authority and police
functions (Tratado de San Ramón de la Nueva
With Brazil and Paraguay, Argentina agreed Orán, June 9, 1995, approved by Law 24639).
to harmonize the Brazilian-Paraguayan
reservoir of Itaipú with the Argentinian- By means of the Acta de Santiago (Act of
Paraguayan reservoir project of Corpus Santiago), June 26, 1971, both Chile and
(Acuerdo Tripartito de Puerto Presidente Argentina agreed not to put into effect
Stroessner [Tripartite Agreement of Port unilateral activities that could cause harm
President Stroessner], October 19, 1979). to the other’s environment and to begin
With Brazil it agreed on the joint use of the joint actions for environmental protection,
bordering stretch of the Urugauy and Pepirí- preservation, conservation, and clean-up.
Guazú rivers, and the use by each State of the
unshared stretches according to each nation’s 7. Legal- Administrative Framework
interests and without causing relevant harm to for Water in the Argentine Republic
the other, according to the consideration and (Appendix II)
description made by both parties involved The National Constitution sets the base for
(Treaty of Buenos Aires, May 17, 1980; ratified all Argentinian law, distributes authority
by Law 22740). between the Nation and its provinces and
forces both to respect certain government
With Paraguay and Bolivia, Argentina created principles such as the separation of powers,
the Comisión Trinacional para el Desarrollo the establishment of the municipal system
de la Cuenca del Río Pilcomayo (Trinational and to yield to the minimum environmental
Commission for the Pilcomayo River Basin), budgets imposed by the National Congress
for the study and execution of joint projects and the international treaties it approves.
The Constitution bestows the Nation power to enforce law in the rest (waters which
competence over water matters when begin and end in the same premises).
it gives the National Congress power to d. Sanction of the necessary norms to legally
legislate on topics such as navigation by protect the environment, use natural resources
declaring it free for all flags (Art. 26,b), rationally, preserve natural and cultural wealth
international and interprovincial trade (Art. in addition to environmental education, and
75, Sec. 13), substantive codes (Art. 75, Sec. finally complement the minimum budgets for
12), and minimum budgets for environmental environmental protection determined by the
protection (Art. 14). Nation, as entrusted by the 1994 reform not
only to the national State but to the provinces
The Constitution also gives the Congress as well (Art. 41).
competence to approve international treaties
celebrated by the Executive Power (Art. 75, Although the National Constitution did not
Sec. 22) which must be observed by the specifically entrust the National Congress to
provinces and promote the construction sanction norms regarding water, the functions
of navigable channels and the exploration attributed to it in the Civil Code allow it to
of inner rivers. The Nation cannot regulate establish uniform principles on water matters.
matters that the National Constitution The National Civil Code determines that
did not delegate to the Congress (Art. practically all water is of public domain, at
121). Likewise, the National Constitution least all that is of community interest, including
authorizes the provinces to perform actions rivers, their flows, other water that flows in
regarding: natural channels and all other water that has
or acquires the capacity to satisfy uses of
a. Creation of regions, for economic and general interest, navigable lakes, lake beds,
social development and the establishment the inner shores of rivers and the watersheds
of agencies with faculties to accomplish their that originate in the property of one owner
objectives (Art. 125). Basins are includes as and end in the property of another.
one of these regions.
Groundwater is also of public domain without
b. Celebration of partial treaties with other prejudice to the rights of the owner of the
provinces to administer justice, economic property above it to extract it according
interests, and activities for common good, with to their interests and in accordance with
knowledge from Congress (Art. 125) and to local regulations. In special cases and under
regulate management of interprovincial basins. particular restrictions, it gives the land owner
the right to water that does not have nor
c. Regulation of management and use of water acquires the aptitude to satisfy needs of
under their jurisdiction. It gives provinces general interest.
original domain of natural resources (Art.
124). The Civil Code awards provinces public The provinces and the Subsecretaría de
domain over most waters (Art. 2340) and the Recursos Hídricos de la Nación (Subsecretariate
of National Hydric Resources) created the cases water management is under national
Consejo Hídrico Federal (COHIFE) (Federal jurisdiction, such as navigation and electricity
Hydric Council) (Law 26438) to coordinate interconnection (Law 15336, Art. 12).
federal hydric policy and to combine policies,
legislation and management of water in The water rights granted to individuals by the
jurisdictions. The Federal Council for the civil code are those exercised on the grounds
Environment coordinates the activities of of the legal requirements it establishes. They
the national and provincial governments on are basically enforced by local authorities in
matters of environmental policy (Law 25675). agreement with matters of federal competence
exercised by the National Government.
The so-called “Guiding Principles for Hydric
Policy of the Argentine Republic” propose a Certain provinces fix basic hydric policy
conceptual base for efficient and sustainable principals in their constitutions, with the purpose
management of hydric resources in the entire of making them prevail over a contrary decision
country. These principles are the direct result by any of its three powers. Nevertheless, while
of several years’ work by sectors involved executing their regulatory faculties regarding
in the use, management and protection of management, use and preservation of both
water resources that were summoned by public and private water under their jurisdiction,
the argentine provinces at the request of provinces have sanctioned laws that often
the Subsecretaría de Recursos Hídricos overlap and in other cases are contradictory
de la Nación (National Sub-secretariat and have ascribed application to a variety of
of Water Resources) (originally created agencies.
as the Secretariat of Water Resources). To face the inconveniencies provoked by
Simultaneously, the Fundamentos del such dispersal, some provinces bring these
Acuerdo Federal del Agua (Foundations for norms together in water codes and unify their
the Federal Agreement on Water) which gave application in a central agency. Some provinces,
rise to al COHIFE, proposed that the National accepting the paradigm of integrated and per
Congress should sanction a coherent and basin management, have created agencies to
effective Framework Law for Water Policy, manage development or exercise authority in a
that combines provincial, regional and certain basin or in the part of it that falls under
national interests respecting the historical its jurisdiction.
roots of each jurisdiction. The Constitution grants the provinces original
domain over rivers (Art, 124), while the Civil
The domain of province over water is a Code grants public domain (Sec. 2340, Sub-
primary (National Constitution, Art. 124), sec. 1), however it does not typify the relation
public (Civil Code Art. 2340), and residual between several provinces bathed by the
right which recognizes limitations. Therefore same waters (Appendix I)
provinces must manage or allow the
management of water in accordance to the In light of the aforementioned, the following
Civil Code (Arts. 2636/2653) although in some conclusions can be reached:
• The legal system in Argentina deals with resources and the conservation of natural
a multitude of water-related issues. The wealth. The “Consejo Hídrico Federal”
abundant and scattered norms from 25 (COHIFE) (Federal Hydric Council) a federal
jurisdictions and some interjurisdictional authority for normative coordination, is
sources concerning the preservation showing the signs of becoming the most
and improvement of watersheds and adequate organ to create such a law or
conferring their application to numerous code, because it anticipates the consensus
organisms, creates problems regarding of the entire political and administrative
the identification and application of norms, system as well as its obstacles. In addition,
while stimulating certain activities but not COHIFE promotes the Guiding Principles
others. This rarely helps to solve issues, it for Hydric Policy of the Argentine Republic.
more likely increases conflict of interests
generated by permanent circulation of • The abundance and scattering of norms
water throughout basins, decreases water is also present in the international laws for
availability and worsens the effect of its over- water, built from precise agreements. The
abundance. On a national scale, this is even location of Argentina in the lower section of
more obvious because a national body for the Plata Basin and the opportunities offered
water regulation is lacking. At the launching by the Andean rivers force it to continue
of the “Guiding Principle for Water Policy in ahead in the building of an equitable and
the Argentine Republic”, within the Hydric solidary international legal system for water.
Policy of August 8, 2003, the following was
stated: “The standardization of Guiding 8. Glossary
Principles through a Framework Law on Alluvium. Detrital material such as gravel,
behalf of the National Congress will allow sand and clay, deposited by water currents.
the stating of clear and equitable rules that
shall provide legal certainty, thus avoiding Anthropic. Anything associated to, influenced
proliferation of partial, disperse, overlapping by, belonging to, or even contemporary to
and often contradictory legislations”. the human species or human being.

• There has been a consensus to sanction a Aquaculture. The commercial cultivation of

national regulatory body for water, or at aquatic organisms, either plants or animals
least to codify federal hydric legislation for (Tundisi, 2009).
quite some time. Likewise, the National
Constitution authorizes the National Aquifer . An aquifer is a permeable stratum or
Congress to condense national norms geological formation that allows groundwater
regarding water into a national body. circulation and storage through its pores and
crevices. Within these formations a wide
• A National Law or Code for Water would variety of materials can be found such as river
provide rights derived from the constitution gravel, silt, highly cracked limestone, poorly
for the rational use of water and natural cemented porous sandstone, beach sand,
some volcanic formations, dune deposits and is the name given to the process of nutrient
even certain types of clay. The upper level enrichment of an ecosystem. It is widely used
of groundwater is called the water table, in reference to the contribution of additional
and in the case of an unconfined aquifer, it nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from
is the phreatic level. In an artesian aquifer point sources (isolated discharge) or diffuse
groundwater is confined by impermeable sources (extensive spillage from a variety
layers and its water is under positive pressure. of land uses). A eutrophized ecosystem or
environment is characterized by an abnormally
Biodiversity. The wide variety of living things high amount of nutrients, followed by an
(plants and animals) on Earth and the natural increase in biomass and its disposal.
patterns it is made of.
Evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration is
Biota. In its most common use, the word the loss of water from a surface by direct
“biota” is the name given to the group of evaporation plus the loss of water through
plant and animal species occupying a given transpiration in plants. It is measured as mm per
area. The term European biota is used to refer unit of time.
to the list of species living in the European
territory. Biota can be divided into flora and Externalities. In Economics, an externality
fauna. The concept can be extended to refer is a benefit or cost that is not reflected in
to the species in a section of the ecosystem the price received or incurred by a physical
such as the soil, or rhizosphere, or the bottom or moral party who did not agree to the
of an aquatic ecosystem. action causing the cost or benefit. A benefit
is called a positive externality while a cost is
Desalinization. Physical or chemical process considered a negative externality.
to eliminate salt from salt water (from the
ocean or salt lakes) to produce fresh water. Fluvial regimen. The type of fluvial regimen
is determined by the way a river flow is
Draft. The draft of a ship or boat is the vertical fed. This can basically be nival also called
distance between the waterline and the keel or glacial or snowmelt, when it comes from
baseline, including the thickness of the hull; in the melting of snow, or pluvial when coming
the case in which the thickness is not included, from precipitation. Mixed forms arise from
the draft outline would be obtained. the combination of these two, such as nivo-
pluvial or pluvio-nival depending on which of
Dredging. Dredging is the removal of the two predominates. The type of regimen
sediments from a watercourse, lake, bay, or influences flow variations and the regularity
the entrance to a port, to deepen a navigable of the river. A nival or glacial regimen has its
channel or river, to increase its capacity to hold maximum flow in the spring and beginning
water (thus avoiding floods upriver), or to aid of summer, as this is when snow melts,
ship traffic and avoid the risk of grounding. while minimum flow occurs in the winter. A
Eutrophication. In Ecology, eutrophication pluvial regimen increases flow with rains and
temperature, and its regularity depends on of arsenic-contaminated water. In certain
the season when precipitation is greatest. It is regions of the world, it is endemic.
predominant in tropical, sub-tropical areas, as
well as in some template areas. Hydrologic cycle. The water cycle in
Likewise, a mixed regimen predominates in a an orographic basin, continent or the
great part of template areas, where the time entire planet; it represents a process
of lowest flow coincides with fall-winter. Rivers and balance of precipitation, infiltration,
with this kind have the most balanced flow. evapotranspiration and flow or retention of
Irregular displays of pluvial regimens depend surface and groundwater.
on sporadic precipitations that produce
torrential currents and floods. Improved sanitation. Improved sanitation is
defined as one that guarantees hygienically
Food chains. The transfer of energy in separating human excreta from human
foodstuffs through a series of organisms in contact. However, this excludes sharing
which one feeds on the one before it and is sanitary facilities between several households
the food of the following. or public facilities. The following are included
in improved sanitation: (a) flush toilet/latrine
Hydric resources. Hydric resources are one (a.1) piped sewer system, (a.2) septic tank, (a.3)
of the most important natural resources for flush/pour flush to pit latrine; (b) ventilated
life; so much so that recent investigations on improved pit latrine; (c) pit latrine with slab,
the Solar System look for traces of water on and (d) composting toilet. The following are
other planets and satellites as an indicator of examples of unimproved sanitation: (a) flush/
the possible existence of life forms on them. pour to elsewhere; (b) pit latrine without slab;
(c) bucket; (d) hanging toilet or hanging latrine,
Hydric stress. Hydric stress occurs when water y (e) no facilities or bush or field campo (open-
demand is greater than water supply during air defecation) (JMP, 2010).
a specific period or when its use is restricted
due to its poor quality. Hydric stress causes Improved water (source of). Water that
deterioration of freshwater quantity (over- comes from or is supplied by a source or mains
exploited aquifers, dry rivers, etc.) and quality that protects it from external contamination
(eutrophication, pollution by organic matter, because of the way it is constructed and
saline intrusion, etc.). designed, especially from fecal matter. Among
improved sources of water there are: (a) piped
Hydric tension. A country is under hydric water into dwelling, yard or plot, (b) public
tension when its annual supply of fresh water tap or standpipe, (c) tubewell or borehole, (d)
is between 1,000 and 1,700 m3 per person. protected dug well, (e) protected springs and (f)
Countries in these conditions probably rainwater collection. Among non-improved
experience temporary or limited water scarcity. sources there are: (a) unprotected dug well,
Hydroarsenicism. Environmental disease (b) unprotected spring, (c) cart with small
the origin of which is associated to the use tank/drum, (d) tanker-truck, (e) surface
water (river, reservoir, lake, lagoon, stream, are forms of condensation, not precipitation.
canal, irrigation canal), y (f) bottled water The amount of precipitation on a specific
(Bottled water is considered improved only point of the earth’s surface is called pluviosity
when the household uses other sources of or pluviometric amount. Precipitation is a
water to cook and for personal hygiene; major component of the water cycle. It is
wherever this information is not available, responsible for depositing freshwater on our
bottled water is classified case by case) planet, and consequently for both plant and
(JMP, 2010). animal life. It is produced by clouds when they
reach the saturation point of vapor, which is
Inter-basin diversion. Inter-basin diversions when droplets of water increase in size to the
are projects for the transfer of water to increase point they precipitate by gravity. It is possible
flow within the receiving basin. to inseminate clouds to induce precipitation
by spraying a fine powder or an adequate
Leaching. Process in which a liquid solvent chemical (such as silver nitrate) within the
comes into contact with a pulverized cloud, thus accelerating the formation of
solid producing a solution of one of the droplets and increasing the probability of
components of the solid. precipitation; these tests however have not
been satisfactory in practically all cases.
Micro-measurement. Group of measuring
activities to know the volumes of water used Reservoir. A reservoir is an accumulation
by the population. This information can be of water produced by the obstruction of a
obtained per system, sector and eventually river bed which totally or partially closes its
per subsector; in addition it can be classified flow. The obstruction can be caused by works
as commercial, residential, touristic, etc. built by man for this purpose, such as dams,
or by natural causes such as a landslide on
Monitoring. Process to determine a narrow stretch of a river or stream or the
physical, chemical and biological variables accumulation of ice plates.
in an ecosystem to allow the construction Salinization. Salinization is often produced by
of data bases and an information system excessive soil irrigation. As water evaporates
(Tundisi, 2009). on the surface, it deposits salts from rocks
and underground layers. These salts crystalize
Non-irrigated crops. Non-irrigated crops are and interfere in the development of roots.
those which are not irrigated by man, as they
only rely on rainwater. Sanitary deficit. Lack of access to basic
sanitary services.
Precipitation. In meteorology precipitation
is any form of hydrometeor falling from the Sanitary deficit index. A combination of
sky and reaching the earth’s surface. This characteristics concerning individuals and
includes rain, drizzle, snow, sleet, and hail, but their surroundings, such as a) access to basic
excludes virga, mist and dew because these sanitary services and b) accessibility to public
health systems; it is useful to classify the it. Virtual water is a tool to calculate the actual
vulnerability of public health in a region. use of water in a country or its water footprint,
and it is equal to the total water resulting from
Seasonal reservoirs. A type of reservoir with domestic consumption plus the virtual water
the capacity to store water during the rainy from other countries, minus the virtual water it
season to regulate it efficiently and make it exports to other countries, The water footprint
available according to demand during the dry of a country is a useful indicator of a country’s
or drought season. consumption of the world’s water resources.

Sustainability. In Ecology, the term Water. A substance with a molecule formed

“sustainability” describes how biological by two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of
systems are kept diverse and productive oxygen (H2O). It is essential for the survival
through time. It refers to the balance of a of all known forms of life. The term “water”
species with its surrounding resources. It generally refers to the substance in liquid
also applies to the exploitation of a resource state, although it can be found as a solid
below the limit for its renewal. called ice, and as a gas known as vapor.

Sustainable development. The process of Water scarcity. A country suffers water scarcity
increasing and long-lasting improvement in when the annual fresh water supply is lower than
the life of a human community. It can occur 1,000 m3 per person. Such a country probably
along one or more aspects such as physical experiments chronic and lengthy water scarcity
(health, nutrition, housing, jobs, services, conditions that hinder its development.
infrastructure), financial, ethical, spiritual
and emotional (education, recreation, art, Water treatment. In environmental
culture, religion). In socio-economic and engineering, the term “water treatment” is
cultural terms, sustainable development the group of physical, chemical or biological
occurs when progress and consolidated operations aimed at eliminating or decreasing
quality of life continues through time. From pollution or unwanted characteristics of water
the perspective of prosperity, human equity of various kinds: natural, for supply, residual,
and environmental conservation, according or in the case of urban wastes, raw sewage.
to the 1987 Brundtland report, sustainability The purpose is to obtain water with the
is development that meets the needs of the proper characteristics for the use it will be
present without compromising the ability of given, thus the exact nature and combination
future generations to meet their own needs. of processes varies not only with the traits of
the original water, but also with its final use.
Virtual water. This concept developed in the
early 1990’s. Because water is necessary to Wetlands. Areas of the Earth’s surface
produce commodities and services, the virtual temporarily or permanently flooded, regulated
water of a product, whether agricultural or by climate factors and in constant relation with
industrial, refers to the water needed to make the living things that inhabit them. They are
highly biodiverse and vulnerable to human Water and Sanitation)
9. Acronyms Environmental Protection Agency (USA)
Asociación de Entes Reguladores de Agua y GEI
Saneamiento de las Américas (Association of Gases de efectos invernadero (greenhouse
Entities for Water Regulation and Sanitation gases)

Area Metropolitana de Buenos Aires (Buenos Gestión Integrada de los Recursos Hídricos
Aires Metropolitan Area) (Integrated Management of Hydric Resources)

Academia Nacional de Ciencias Económicas Inter-American Network of Academies of
(National Academy for Economic Sciences) Sciences

Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas,Físicas International Lake Environment Committee
y Naturales (National Academy for Exact,
Physical and Natural Sciences) INDEC
Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Censos
A.N.I. (National Institute for Statistics and Census
Academia Nacional de Ingeniería (National
Academy of Engineering O.S.N.
Obras Sanitarias de la Nación (National
A.P. y S. Sanitary Works)
Agua Potable y Saneamiento (Clean Water O y M (O&M)
and Sanitation) Operación y Mantenimiento (operation and
Red Argentina de Capacitación y Fortaleci- P.A.H.O
miento de la Gestión Integrada de los Pan American Health Organization
Recur-sos Hídricos (Argentine Network
for the Training and Strengthening UNICEF
of Integrated Management of Hydric United Nations Children’s Fund
AySA World Health Organization
Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos (Argentine
10. References and Mitigation of Groundwater Level
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29. http://www.cavaargentina.com environmental education”, en Memorie
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(consultada en octubre de 2010) 44. Martinez, S., Bauer, C. and Calcagno,
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in Environmental Education”, pp. 63 a Humano Más allá de la escasez: Poder,
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fenomenología de las inundaciones 2006.
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Humana”, México Simposio Agua, Bartram, J. “Safer water, better health:
Clima y Salud. costs, benefits and sustainability of
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de la Salud y Fondo de las Naciones 2008.
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Conjunto de Monitoreo de Provisión seeking and the performance of public
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desarrollo de los recursos hídricos en el creciente ocupación”, Nº1, pp. 78-81,
mundo, 2006. Paoli, C. 1997.
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agua potable y alcantarillado en la un planeta abarrotado”, Editorial
ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina: Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, Argentina,
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Recursos Naturales e Infraestructura mondialisée: la gouvernance en
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Declaración de Río Cumbre Mundial Unidas sobre el desarrollo de los
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CEDES, 2006.
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“A Água”, pp. 106, Sao Paulo, Brasil,
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estrategia de apoyo al sector Agua
potable y saneamiento”, CETI – BID,

Isla del Sol - Titicaca

Water Resources
great availability of water and high annual
precipitation, in nearly half of its territory this

in Bolivia
resource is scarce and there is a great deficit
of it, reaching desert levels. Additionally, the
country suffers with droughts, hailstorms,
A Strategic Viewpoint of floods and other weather phenomena every
the Issues Associated with year, and in many cases unpredictably. These
Transboundary Waters climate phenomena is worsened by events
like El Niño and La Niña. Bolivia is an inland
Fernando Urquidi Barrau, Ph. D. country with a surface area of 1,098,581 Sq.
Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Bolivia Kms and no more than ten million inhabitants.
Bolivia has 6,918 Kms of international borders
1. Introduction with five different countries: 3,424 Kms with
In the XXI century, the scarcity of freshwater Brazil, 741 Kms with Paraguay, 773 Kms with
(blue water) is one of the most significant Argentina, 850 Kms with Chile and 1,131Kms
threats that will affect humanity worldwide. with Peru. Of these, 3,442 Kms (49.8% of
Freshwater has become an increasingly scarce the total) are water, fluvial or lake arcifinious
and vulnerable natural resource. Global climate boundaries (Montes de Oca, 2005). Through
change is causing mountain snow and polar the vast aquatic borders, the controversy
ice to melt, while altering local and regional over the rights and uses of the shared and
hydrologic cycles. These changes have caused contiguous water is inevitable, and leads
disequilibrium between overabundance and to transboundary water issues that require
scarcity of the water resources throughout the permanent management and surveillance to
world, which is very difficult to manage and quickly solve international disagreements or
to solve. This dramatic situation is worsened disputes. For this reason, whatever is decided
by the poor and irrational administration and for upstream water will have direct incidence on
management exercised by mankind of all the what is negotiatied downstream. Additonally,
natural resources, including water. the continuous increase in the direct demand
of water resource, especially from the mining,
Bolivia has abundant freshwater, occupying agriculture and hydroelectric generating
the twentieth position amongst world’s nations industries of the neighboring countries, is
with high hydrologic balances. In addition, causing transborder water conflicts.
it is one of the countries with the largest
freshwater supply per capita in Latin America, The Amazon River macro-basin, for example,
approximately 50,000 cubic meter/capita/ occupies 65.9 % of the national territory
year. However, the surface and underground and has a border of 2,464 Kms, 35.6% of
water balances of its four major hydrological the country’s total international boundaries.
basins, have not been fully quantified nor Nearly 85% of these are aquatic arciniferous
explored. Water is not evenly distributed boundaries of contiguous waterways, of which
in the country; while there are areas with an estimated 70% are mostly abandoned and
have an extremely scarce bolivian population. From the legal viewpoint, the nation must
The cities of Cobija (population 38,000), on consider the new Political Constitution of
the Acre River, and Guayaramerín (population the Nation, enacted on February 7th, 2009,
47,000), on the Mamoré River (Madera River), as well as the urgent need to analyze and
are the two largest population settlements to enact complementary laws to rationally
on this vast aquatic boundary . It is mainly an regulate water resources. These new laws
upstream country and is also a downstream must replace the obsolete Water Law of
country, but in a minor scale. As an upstream October 26th, 1906, and reconcile the relevant
country, its waters run towards neighboring current and future bilateral and sub-regional
nations along the macro-basins of the rivers agreements. From an institutional perspective,
Amazon (Brazil) and Río de la Plata (Argentina the new executive structure and multinational
and Paraguay), and Pacific Ocean (Chile). In legislative instances must be adapted to the
addition, it recieves downstream water in Bolivian participation on international entities,
the Altiplano or Endorheic macro-basin, and bilateral or trilateral commissions.
specifically in Lake Titicaca (Peru) and the
rivers Mauri (Maure in Peru) and Lauca (Chile) The current governmental policies, found
and in the amazonic macro-basin, through the in Articles 373 to 377 of the new Political
river Madre de Dios (Peru). Constitution of the Nation, consider water as
the most fundamental right for the people’s
Transboundary water resources must be sovereignty and life, and its use must be
analyzed from various perspectives, including done in accordance to traditional ways and
scientific-technical, legal, institutional and customs. Water in all of its states, including
social aspects. Likewise, it requires greater surface and underground water, is finite,
involvement of social actors on both vulnerable and a strategic resource. It also has
sides of the borders. From the scientific- a social, cultural and environmental purpose.
technical point of view, Bolivia needs greater It cannot be subject to private acquisition,
knowledge and data, not only of the four and with the service it provides, will not be
major national water basins, but also of the subject to concession and will be regulated
surface and underground water it shares in accordance to the law (this law should be
with neighboring countries. In addition, proposed and promulgated in the coming
the Bolivian Government has a reduced years to replace the 1906 Water Law). In
financial capacity to satisfy the scientific and summary, to-day, water cannot be considered
technological studies necessary to learn in a commercial good. Nevertheless, the
detail about the size of flow, the physical and accelerated growth of urban population
chemical characteristics of the water resources (65% of the total Bolivian population), and
present in its boundaries. Nevertheless, this the needs of certain industries, have caused
technical-scientific viewpoint, with obvious a higher demand of potable water and its
limitations, is the main topic of the present services. This dilemma is difficult to solve in
study regarding the problems associated with the near future, if water is not considered a
Bolivian transboundary waters. commercial good, in one way or another.
With respect to international relations with way to obtain the greatest benefit of water
border countries, Article 377 of the Political resources for the entire country.
Constitution must be fulfilled, as it stipulates that
the State will permanently protect boundary Water has a strategic value for the future
and transboundary waters, to conserve the of Bolivia and thus hydrological resources
hydrological wealth and to contribute to the should be an instrument of power and
integration of the people in both sides of the negotiation in its relations with neighboring
frontiers. We must highlight that Bolivia is a countries. The bilateral, trilateral and
signatory of the 1933 Act of Montevideo, regional treaties subscribed by Bolivia in
which refers to the industrial and agricultural recent decades should serve as a base and
uses of international rivers. It’s also a signatory an example for future negotiations. These
of the 1966 Helsinki Norms and the Ramsar negotiations should continue with strong
Convention on the international importance of emphasis on the environment and must allow
wetlands enforced since 1975. However, Bolivia sustainable development of those regions
is not a signatory of the two most important and municipalities in the country that are
conventions on surface and underground involved or affected by them. Water must
water: the United Nations Convention on the contribute Bolivia’s permanent fight against
Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International poverty and social exclusion. In summary, not
Watercourses (1977) and the Convention on only the quantity but also the quality of water
Transboundary Aquifers. The latter is still under must effectively contribute to the sustainable
discussion and has not yet been approved or development and growth of the nation.
implemented by the UN General Assembly.
The problems associated in Bolivia to surface 2. Water Availability in Bolivia
and underground boundary waters have been In order to discuss the strategic scientific
present since the foundation of the nation in and technical aspects of the issues
1825. These issues and problems should be concerning Bolivia’s transboundary
dealt by joint bilateral studies for each specific water, it is necessary to provide a brief
case, and the political response should be description of the country’s hydrological
completely consistent with them. resources, and to describe the referential
geographic context and its relation with
Public actions taken with respect to water neighboring countries. Likewise, it is
issues should be guaranteed by politicians and important to properly define the most
private citizens, as well as social movements. adequate units to handle and manage
Hydrological resources are fragile and have hydrological resources within the existent
a high political and social content, partly hydro-physiographic framework.
because the Bolivian rural original peasant
population (35% of the total) considers water 2.1 Hydro-physiography of Bolivia
as a divine unconditional gift given as rain. The hydro-physiography of Bolivia is made up
The social and economic emphasis should of two major units and seven physiographic
be analyzed in a balanced, fair and impartial provinces. The western major unit is defined
by the high ground of the Central Andes
Cordillera, about 38% of the territory, and
the rest of the country by the eastern major
unit, which consist of the lower ground of the
Amazon and Chaco alluvial plains, 62% of the
total territory. The Andean block in Bolivia
consist of three contiguous morphotectonic
provinces, which are, from west to east, the
Cordillera Occidental (Eastern Cordillera), the
Bolivian Altiplano and the Cordillera Oriental
(Western Cordillera). The Altiplano is a series
of high, intermontane basins with an average
altitude of 4,000 meters. To the east of the
Cordillera Oriental, the Sierras Subandinas
(Subandean Sierras) and the Valles (Valleys)
are found. The second major unit is located SOURCE: ATLAS AMENAZAS, VULNERABILIDADES Y
in the eastern and northeastern areas of the RIEGOS DE BOLIVIA - 2008

country and consist of the alluvial Amazon FIG. 2. The twelve Hydrographic Watersheds of Brazil

plains along the Brazilian Precambrian Shield weather conditions present in the various
and to the southeast the Bolivian Chaco hydro-physiographic areas. These areas are
plains. The physiographic provinces shown in influenced by macro-weather, micro-weather
FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 are divided into subunits, and local weather events. The macro-weather
which provide a general summary of the relief conditions are characterized by the strong
and geological characteristics of the land. seasonality of precipitation. In the country as
a whole, the rain pattern is tropical and the
2.2 Climatic Conditions greatest precipitation occurs during the warmer
The availability of water in Bolivia is directly months of the year. Bolivia is located between
related to its geographical position within two zonal atmospheric flows: the Intertropical
the northern equatorial region and the Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and the Subtropical
High Pressure Belt of the Southern Hemisphere.
This global weather mechanism is influenced by
southern cold advection winds (surazos) from
the South Pole and the thermal variations of the
eastern Pacific Ocean known as El Niño and La
Niña. Of the 855 weather stations in the country,
496 are found in the Amazon basin, 142 in the
Endorheic basin and 217 in the Rio de la Plata
basin. The Pacific macro-basin had only one
SOURCE: ANA 2009 weather station near Laguna Colorada, which
FIG. 1. Physiographic Provinces and Hydrographic Basins operated from 1985 through 1997. According
to Montes de Oca (2005), the distribution of
average annual temperatures in the country
varies with altitude from close to 25°C in
the plains, to 18°C in the valleys and 10°C in
the high plateaus. The annual temperature
variation is slight as the length of day and angle
of solar incidence is very similar during the
winter and summer. The lowest temperatures
occur in June and July, in the middle of the
winter, towards the early morning. The climatic
conditions are significantly modified by local
phenomena and microclimate, such as the
orientation of the ridges, the presence of
lakes, vegetation cover, etc., all them affect
the temperature and precipitation. Along the
entire national territory there are two rainy
periods, one during the summer with more
abundant precipitation (due to the fall in the RIEGOS DE BOLIVIA - 2008
Intertropical Convergence Zone) and another FIG. 3. Spatial distribution of specific discharge in Brazil
during the winter with less abundant rainfall
(the northern movement of the Intertropical
Convergence Zone produces movement of
dry and stable air). The rainy season is basically
during the summer, starting in December and
ending in March, with a maximum during
January, followed by February. From 60 to
80% of rain falls during these four months.
Winter is the dry season, with minimal
precipitation from May to August. These two
seasons are separated by transition periods,
one in April and another from September to

The map for normal precipitation, FIG. 3,

shows that the southwest corner of the
country is the driest, with less than 100 mm of
rain per year. The Eastern Cordillera receives
between 350 and 500 mm of rain/year. The
Bolivian Altiplano is dry, with a rainfall of RIEGOS DE BOLIVIA - 2008
100 to 350 mm/year. The area next to Lake FIG. 4. Recharge Area of the Main Aquifers in Brazil
Titicaca exceptionally receives from 500 to
700 mm/year. The rainfall increases towards
the east, with figures of up to 1,800 mm/year.
In the north, the Amazon region (Pando)
shows precipitation reaching 2,220 mm/year.
The Chapare (Cochabamba) and the area
bordering Maldonado (Perú) have the greatest
precipitation in the nation, with values above
4,500 mm/year. On average, precipitation for
all Bolivian basins has been estimated to be
1,419 mm/year, although the country’s four
macro-basins show important differences in
this respect. The Amazon macro-basin receives
1,814 mm/year, while the Río de La Plata basin
gets 854 mm/year. The Endorheic or Altiplano
basin receives twice as much precipitation
than the Río de la Plata, and four times more
than the Altiplano. (Balance Hídrico de Bolivia, SOURCE: ATLAS AMENAZAS, VULNERABILIDADES Y
1990). On the other hand, precipitation on the
FIG. 5. Runoff Coefficient
Pacific is minimal; from 1983-1995 its annual
average was 59.1 mm (Urquidi, 2002a).

The annual flow of the main rivers shows

significant variation depending on alterations
of weather parameters. In addition, weather
changes influence the level of evapo-
transpiration; runoff and specific flow (FIGS.
4 to 6 ). The usefulness of the true annual
evapotranspiration, shown in FIG. 3, is as an
indicator of dryness in the various regions of
the country. As could be expected, it almost
coincides with FIG. 3 that shows normal
precipitation. Thus, the Western Cordillera
and the Bolivian Altiplano regions are the most
arid, while the Eastern Plains, covered in lush
vegetation, is the wettest and has the highest
evapotranspiration values in the country. FIG.
5 shows the runoff coefficient, i.e. the rate
between the rainfall in an area and the runoff. RIEGOS DE BOLIVIA - 2008
While the runoff is greatest in the plains of the FIG. 6. Specific Flow

FIG . 7. Surface Water Resources

Amazon basin, it has a negative effect when pools, wetlands and other bodies of water.
annual floods are produced, adversely affecting The surface water resources of a specific
productive activities and urban and road region come from rainfall in its catchment
infrastructure. FIG. 6 compares specific runoff basin, melted snow form snow capped
of the various basins in Bolivia. The contribution mountains and springwaters (underground
capacity of non-gauged sections of a specific water discharge). Surface water basins in
basin or of others with similar areas; it can be Bolivia, including the flow of certain rivers, were
assess from the statistical data of a gauged described in detail by Montes de Oca (2005).
section. The map shows that areas with the
greatest precipitation, west of the north and FIGS. 7, 8 and Table 1 show the regional
central Western Cordillera, Yungas and Chaparé abundance of freshwater in Bolivian
regions, have the highest values (40 to 50 l/sec/ territory, which has been divided into two
km¯²). All of the Amazonian macro-basins vary areas, one where freshwater is continuously
between 10 and 20 l/sec/km¯² and 30 to 40 l/ available and another where freshwater is
sec/km¯²; the Bermejo river basin has values scarce or absent. On a national scale, the
of 10 to 20 l/sec/km¯², while the basins in the supply of water (blue water) is greater than
remainder of the country have flows from 0 to 500,000 million cubic meters/year while the
10 l/sec/km¯². current demand is around 2,000 million cubic
meters/year, which means less than 0.5%
3. Availability of Surface Water of the total supply. It is estimated that the
In Bolivian territory, surface waters run national demand of water will increase 18%
through a complex system of rivers, lakes, by the year 2012. This relative abundance
Table 1. Units of Available Fresh Water

Sector Unit Description

1 Various basins of the Amazon macro-basin, with large (>100 m3/sec to 500
m3/sec) to enormous (>5,000 m3/sec) amounts of water. The high flow
season generally occurs between December and March.
2 Amazon macro-basin with moderate (>10 m3/sec to 100 m3/sec) to very
large (>500 a 5,000 m3/sec) quantities of water. The high flow season
generally occurs between January and March.
available freshwater

3 South of the Amazon macro-basin and downriver from the Río de la Plata
macro-basin, with moderate (>10 m3/sec to 100 m3/sec) to very large (>500
to 5,000 m3/sec) amounts of water. The high flow season generally occurs
between March and May.

4 The headwater basins of the Amazon and Río de la Plata with small (>1 m3/
sec to 10 m3/sec) to very large (>100 to 500 m3/sec) amounts of water. The
high flow season generally occurs between March and May.

Freshwater scarce or absent 5 The entire macro-basin of the Altiplano with moderate (>10 m3/sec to 100
m3/sec) to very large (>500 to 5,000 m3/sec) amounts of water. Great
amounts of salt water available. The high flow season generally occurs
between January and March.


FIG. 8. Hydrographic Map FIG. 9. Hydrographic Basins
of water is a great advantage Bolivia has for Basins) to achieve “the cross-cultural
over its neighboring countries. However, as development of basins as places for life and
previously mentioned, there is a high spatial innovation in hydrological governability”
and temporal variability in weather conditions, (Plan Nacional de Cuencas, 2007).
and these include frequent extreme hydro-
meteorological events such as rainstorms, Roche et al. (1992) were the first to suggest
droughts, hailstorms, snowfalls, frosts, etc. dividing the country into the three great
Likewise, the largest human settlements and hydrographic basins, as adopted by the
human productive activities are concentrated Instituto Geográfico Militar (IGM) in 1998.
in regions with the lowest rainfall in the The MAGDR-PRONAR (2001) also proposed
country. a division into three great basins (Amazon, De
la Plata and Endorheic), 10 basins and 36 sub-
This, paradoxically, produces chronic water basins. However, the present work proposes
scarcity in several areas, which is aggravated four great hydrographic basins: 1) the Amazon
by a lack of infrastructure for pluriannual macro-basin (65.9% of the national territory),
regulation. The headwater basins of the 2) the Rio de la Plata macro-basin (20.9%), 3)
four macro-basins of the country are in the the Endorheic macro-basin of the Altiplano
western or Andean area (38% of the national (11.4%) and 4) the Pacific Ocean macro-
territory), where it rains less, and where close basin (1.8% of the territory). The proposal
to 70% of the population lives. to include the Pacific Ocean macro-basin is
based on the latest studies of the hydrological
Bolivia has inventoried 260 wetlands, of resources existent along the border between
which eight are Ramsar sites. The matter Bolivia and Chile. Table 2 and FIG. 9 show the
must be confronted in the near future with four macro-basins or great basins, 12 basins
priority and in an orderly way. Close to 20% and 53 sub-basins and minor basins.
of the national territory is under ecological
protection, either by the Sistema Nacional All Bolivian macro-basins are transboundary,
de Áreas Protegidas (National System for thus it is relevant to consider the shared nature
Protected Areas) or by ecological services of their water. In most cases, Bolivia is found
contemplated in the Forest Law. in the higher areas or headwater basins while
the neighboring countries are in the middle
3.1 Hydrographic Basins in Bolivia or low areas. Within this context, progress
Hydrographic basins are considered to be the has been made in the processes related to
most adequate units for the management of a shared management of the hydrological
hydrological resources. Dividing the country resources, the most relevant example being
into macro-basins (large basins), basins, sub- the binational transboundary basin of Lake
basins and micro-basins is a step forward Titicaca, where the most “legal” progress has
towards a more rational regulation of water. been made in this respect. The water of Lake
In 2007, the Minister of Water proposed a Titicaca is under joint ownership regulation,
Plan Nacional de Cuencas (National Plan that is, any action in the basin on behalf of
Bolivia or Peru must be consulted and agreed hydrological balance of Lake Poopó depends
upon by both countries. Due to the uneven on flows of the Desaguadero River, which in
distribution of rainfall and considering the turn depends on the variations of the water
size of the recipient basins, of the four macro- level of Lake Titicaca. There are numerous
basins that configure the country, the Amazon high altitude lakes on the macro-basins of
macro-basin has the greatest availability of the Altiplano and De La Plata River, which
surface water, while the Pacific Ocean macro- are head basins. These lakes are supply by
basin has the least. It is estimated that 180,000 the melting of the no longer perennial snows,
million cubic m/year of water flow through the due to global warming, of the Andean snow
Amazon macro-basin, 22,000 million cubic cap peaks.
m/year through the Plata macro-basin, and
1,650 million cubic m/year of water through 3.2 Quality and Uses of
the Endorheic macro-basin (Montes de Oca, Hydrological Resources
2005). It has been calculated that only about The Bolivian national water supply is
10 to 12 million cubic m/year of water flow calculated to be more than 500,000 million
through the Pacific Ocean macro-basin. Table cubic m/year and the current demand is
3 presents individual hydrological balance of estimated to be just 2,000 million cubic m/
some of the country’s hydrographic basins. year. The greatest demand for water, 94% of
the total, comes from agricultural irrigation
FIG. 9 shows that the Amazon macro-basin grounds through open irrigation ditches or
consists of four major basins: Madre de Dios, channels. Table 4 shows the total surface
Beni, Mamoré and Iténez, all flowing to the irrigated, the water sources and the number
Madeira River (Brazil) on the northeastern of irrigation systems per department.
corner of the Bolivian-Brazilian boundary. A
curious case is the Parapeti River, that flows to Water for human consumption is in second
the Iténez River basin during the rainy period, place, with an estimated demand of 104.5
and in the dry period, a large part of its million cubic m/year. Most of the water used
waters evaporate or filter into the Paraguay in urban areas is for domestic use and only
River basin. The Río de la Plata macro-basin, five of the nine department capital cities have
that flow the southern part of the country, is a permanent 24 hour drinking water service.
formed by three major river basins: Paraguay,
Bermejo and Pilcomayo. The country also has The city of Cochabamba faces the greatest
a large number of lakes. There are six major problems with respect to water supply,
lakes with a surface area greater than 200 followed by the cities of Potosi, Sucre and
Sq. Kms: Titicaca, Poopó, Uru Uru, Coipasa, Cobija. Table 5 shows the type of source and
Rogagua and Rogaguado. The estimated the flow supplied in the nine capital cities of
water volume in Lake Titicaca is 8,966 x Bolivian departments. In spite of the obvious
1011 cubic m, with a significant rainfall on its coverage increase in drinking water service
basin, which varies greatly from year to year in urban and rural sectors, 30% of the
(Baldivieso, 2005). On the other hand, the Bolivian population still lacks potable water.
Table 2. Bolivian Macro-Basins, Basins and Sub-Basins

Macro-Basins Basins Sub-Basins and Minor Basins *

Acre (2,340 Km2)

Abuna (25,136 Km2) Manú
Beni (169,946 Km2) Orthon
Madre de Dios (*Manuripi / *Manurimi)
Amazon Kaka
(724,000 Km2) Boopi
Mamoré (261,315 Km2) Yata
Rio Grande (*Yapacani)
Iténez (265,263 Km2) Itonomas
Blanco (* San Martín)
San Miguelito
Pilcomayo-Bermejo Bermejo
(100,300 Km2) Tarija
De la Plata Pilaya-Tumusla (*San Juan del Oro / * Cotagaita)
(229,500 Km2)
Dead Rivers of Chaco
(32,100 Km2)
Alto Paraguay Bahía Caceres
(97,100 Km2) Pantanal (Curiche Grande)
Otuquis, Río Negro
Lakes (45,948 Km2) Titicaca
Endorheic or Altiplano Mauri
(125,733 Km2) Caracollo
Salt lakes (79,785 Km2) Río Grande de Lípez
Puca Mayu
Lauca (* Turco)
North (4,890 Km2) Carangas – Todos Santos

Pacific Ocean South (14,458 Km2) Salar de Empexa

(19,348 Km2) Salar de Laguáni
Salar de Chiguana
Pastos Grandes
Salar de Chalviri
Laguna Verde
Silala Springs (**)

Note: (**) Not an hydrographic sub-basin.

Table 3. Hydrological Balance of Some of Bolivia’s Basins
Basin Station  Area Precipitation Evapo-transpiration Runoff Infiltration
(sq. km) (mm) (mm) (mm) (mm)
Amazon Macro-basin
Parapeti Bolivian 7,500 920 600 320 -
Izozog Plain 45,000 887 875 12 57
Parapeti + Total 52,500 892 836 56 49
Alto Beni Merger with 31,240 1,385 741 644 -
Kaka river
Kaka Merger with
Alto Beni 21,040 1,586 777 809 -
Beni Merger with
Madre de 122,380 1,805 1,092 713 -
Dios river
Madre de Dios Merger with 125,000 2,715 1,107 1607 -
Beni river
Mamoré Merger with 222,070 1,685 1,060 625 -
Iténez river
Iténez Merger with
Mamoré 303,280 1,512 1,227 285 -
Mamoré+ Merger with
Iténez Mamoré- 525,350 1,585 1,156 429 -
Iténez river
Madera Exit Bolivia 724,000 1,818 1,170 648 -
Endorheic Macro-basin of the Bolivian Altiplano
Lake Titicaca Lakeshore 48,590 653 470 183 -
Lake Poopó Lakeshore 27,740 370 438 0 -
Salar Coipasa Shore 30,170 298 298 0 -
Salar Uyuni Shore 46,625 190 190 0 -
Desaguadero Chuquiña 29,475 414 361 53 -
Altiplano Closed 125,733 463 390 83 9

De La Plata Macro-basin
Pilcomayo Misión La 98,300 506 439 67 -
Bermejo Juntas de 11,981 1,159 714 418 -
San Antonio
Alto Paraguay Puerto 119,219 1,056 830 226 -
Total De La 229,500 829 530 299 -
Pacific Ocean Macro-basin
Silala Springs Laguna 150 59 914 0 14
Total Pacific 19,348 94 630 0 -
NATIONAL TOTAL 1,098,581 1,419 958 461 19
Table 4. Irrigation Systems by Water Source Per Department
 Rivers  Run off  Wells  Reservoirs Total
Department  Systems Area Systems Area Systems Area Systems Area Area
(no.) (has.) (no.) (has.) (no.) (has.) (no.) (has.) (has.)
Chuquisaca 615 18,059 28 587  5  2, 522  21 ,168

Cochabamba 415  48 ,979 95  3, 310 469 13, 442 56  21 ,270  87 ,001

La Paz 661  23, 271 258  4 ,166 13 163 29  8, 393  35 ,993

Oruro 224  8, 513 84 722 4 107 5  4 ,697  14 ,039

Potosí 735  10, 840 208  4, 829 9 68 4 503  16 ,240

Santa Cruz 225  11, 099 3 25 1 380 3  3 ,735  15, 239

Tarija 523  33 ,771 26 230 1 2 ,350  36, 351

TOTAL  3 ,428 154, 582 702  13, 869 496 14 ,160 103 43, 470 226, 031

Table 5. Types of Source and Flow Supplied in the Capital Cities of Each Department
City Company Source Flow–Q (Lt/Sec)
EPSAS S.A. - Empresa 8 surface sources in the Cordillera Real (Tuni,
La Paz / El Alto Pública Social de Agua Condoriri, Huayna Potosí, Milluni, Choqueyapu, Between 2,011
y Saneamiento (Mixed Incachaca, Ajan Khota, Hampaturi Bajo) and 4,525
venture Company)
Santa Cruz (Cooperative) Sub-surface aquifers (Tilala) (30 wells) 347 – 2,067
9 small cooperatives
Surface sources (Escalerani, Wara Wara, Chungara, Between 191
Cochabamba SEMAPA Hierbabuenani) and 404
(Municipal company) 462
Sub-surface aquifers
Surface sources (Cajamarca system which includes
the rivers Cajamarca, Safiri and Punilla) 82
(Municipal company) Surface sources (Ravelo system which includes
the rivers Ravelo, Peras Mayum Jalaqueri, Murillo
and Fisculco) 389

SELA -Servicio Local Surface sources (rivers Sepulturas and Huayña

de Acueductos y Porto) 34
Oruro Alcantarillado (Local
Waterworks and Sub-surface sources (Wells in Challa Pampa, Challa
Sewage Services) Pampita and Aeropuerto) 528
(Municipal company)

Potosí AAPOS Surface sources (Khari Khari lagoons) 195

(Municipal company)
Trinidad COATRI (Cooperative) Sub-surface sources 118
Surface sources (Rivers: Rincón La Victoria,
Guadalquivir, San Jacinto) 574
Tarija Cooperative
Sub-surface sources 279

Cobija Municipal company Surface source (Bahía Stream) 24

In rural areas, there are too many difficulties Contaminated downstream waters are
with respect to the supply of drinking water, used mainly in agricultural activities. The
especially due to scattered population, contaminant load is extremely large and
reduced municipal ability and financing to the estimated amount of organic matter is
generate and channel projects. greater than 100 mg/Lt. Mining generates
acid mine drainage (AMD) containing heavy
There is no interest from the private sector metals that are difficult to control in surface
to invest in such projects. Apart from a low and sub-surface hydrological systems.
coverage, in most of the rural areas supply
is achieved through community sources and In the major water courses of the Amazon
there are no home connections. The industrial macro-basin, the deterioration of water quality
and mining sectors are also important is manifested by the high concentrations of
consumers of water, using 31.5 million cubic sediment from laminar erosion processes and
m/year, or 1% of the total national demand. the mass movement from higher basins, as
well as high concentrations of mercury used
Non-consumptive water resources are found to exploit gold. The same situation is seen in
in the 8,000 kilometers of navigable rivers, the rivers of the Rio de la Plata macro-basin,
most of which are found in the Amazonian where the predominant mining activity is the
basin and the Paraguay – Paraná waterway. exploitation of tin, zinc and lead.

In the energy sector, there are a total of 68 4. Availability of Underground

hydropower plants, including small systems Water in Bolivia
with an installed capacity of 0.006 MW, Underground water is not always considered
and others up to 72 MW. Current installed in watershed management plans. This is
capacity in hydropower plants is 308.4 MW, odd and highly impractical, as the greatest
which corresponds to 1.5% to 2.8% of the percentage of potable water and water
economically utilizable potential. At the start for irrigation in rural and urban areas is
of the year 2000, the National Electrification supplied from underground water aquifers.
Company (ENDE – Empresa Nacional The availability of underground water
de Electrificación) registered another 81 depends on various factors, such as the
hydroelectric utilities, with a theoretical nature or type of rocks of the aquifers
national hydroelectric potential equivalent flow, i.e. either sedimentary or highly
to an installed capacity of 190,000 MW, an fractured effusive magmatic rocks. It also
exploitable potential of 57,000 MW and a depends on hydrodynamic circumstances
technically utilizable potential in the range of and charge/recharge conditions. The
11,000 MW to 20,000 MW. quality of underground water is directly
related to the volume of rainwater or snow
Regarding water quality, mining, industrial melted water, as well as the type and
and human activities in larger cities are the mineral composition of the host rocks or
most important water courses contaminators. host sediments, where water accumulates
or is stored after natural percolation. The five great hydrogeological units and a
Underground water must be considered due description of the freshwater abundance
to several other reasons in the entire analysis in each one are shown in FIG. 10. Map of
of water management; including that, in Underground Water Resources.
many cases, underground water and surface
water are interconnected. There are many Table 6 contains a careful description of the
areas where wetlands, alluvial fans or other available freshwater in the various regional
areas with permeable soils recharge aquifers districts and units, as shown in FIG. 10 of
have to be studied. In the water heads of underground water resources. A detail
the macro-basin of the Río de la Plata, such is given of the different types of aquifers,
infiltration seems to be very important (Roche along with their geological age and rock
et al. 1992). During the rainy periods, the river composition. It also shows the variation in
feeds the aquifer, while the aquifer discharges depth of the aquifers found in the unit. It is
into the river during the dry season. calculated that the aquifers with the greatest
potential are found in the hydrogeological
This phenomenon has been observed in the provinces of the Amazon, Pantanal-Chaco
Paraguayan Chaco with the Yrenda-Toba- Boreal and Northern Altiplano.
Tarijeño aquifer. In general, throughout the
national territory, the surface discharge In a second group are the aquifers in highly
areas are becoming more and more scarce. cracked consolidated rocks of medium to high
Underground water levels are falling and productivity and some with important quantities
recharging areas are suffering high levels of underground water resources. This group
of contamination. Andean small wetlands includes highly fractured magmatic rocks
(bofedales) are underground water discharge (ignimbrites) of the Neogene - Quaternary.
areas that do not drain and form wet These types of aquifers are found in the Pacific
grasslands that are used as feed by wild Ocean macro-basin, although not widely
llamas and vicuñas. distributed. The presence of surface springs
is conditioned by two main factors, the degree
Nationally, underground water hydrological of the ignimbrite welding and strong fracturing
resources have not been fully quantified. related to regional and local tectonic faults.
There are very limited local studies and
their technical information is not organized 5. Issues related to
or systematized. In 1985, the Bolivian Transboundary Surface Waters
Geological Service (GEOBOL -Servicio The issues related to transboundary surface
Geológico de Bolivia) developed and waters are complex. Bolivia is both an
published a hydrogeological map of upstream and a downstream country and has
Bolivia FIG. 10 and defined five regional important flows draining to neighbouring
hydrogeological provinces which are countries. The issue areas are presented in
fundamentally different in their lithological FIG. 11 and details are summarized in the
and structural conformation. following paragraphs.

FIG. 10. Underground Water Resources

Table 6. Units of Underground Water

Sector Unit Description

Small to very large amounts of freshwater available from non-consolidated or semi-
consolidated deposits of the Quaternary period, made of gravel, sand, silt and clay.
1 Aquifer depth varies from 30 to 90 m.
abundant Small to enormous amounts of freshwater in consolidated to semi-consolidated deposits
of the Quaternary period, made of gravel, sand, silt and clay. Aquifer depth varies from 70
2 to 200 m.

Very small to large amounts of freshwater are available in alluvial aquifers of the
Quaternary period; sedimentary aquifers of the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras, made of
3 conglomerates, sandstone, silt and schists; and igneous aquifers from the Quaternary to
Freshwater Tertiary periods made of basalts, dacites tuffs and ignimbrites. Aquifer depth is generally
locally below 100m.
abundant Very small to large amounts of freshwater available in fractures and crevices of
metamorphic to igneous aquifers of the Precambrian era, made of granites and gneis.
4 Locally, underground water available from alluvial aquifers along the Paraguay river.
Aquifer depth is generally less than 90 m.
Scarce to very large amounts of saltwater available from non-consolidated to semi-
Freshwater consolidated material of the Quaternary period, made of gravel, sand, silt, clay; and
scarce or 5 igneous and pyroclastic aquifers. Aquifer depth is generally less than 90m. Small to
lacking very large amounts of water are available in igneous and metamorphic aquifers made
of tuffs and sandstone.

FIG .11. Issues Related to Transboundary Surface Water

5.1 The case of the Madera not navigable along its 98 Km in Bolivia due
and Beni Rivers to the many rock outcrops (Brazilian Shield)
The basin of the Madera River, an important which are present in its riverbed and are called
river of the Amazon macro-basin, is the most “cachuelas”. Its affluents on the right bank
important in the entire hydrographic system within Brazilian territory are the Dos Araras
of the country. It covers an area of 720,057 and Ribera rivers, while on the left bank and
Sq. Kms. representing 65.5% of the national in Bolivian territory they are the Mamoré,
territory and 99.7% of the surface covered Abuná, Arroyo, La Gran Cruz and Beni rivers.
by the Amazon macro-basin. It´s main flow is
the result of large numerous river flows. The Almost all Amazonian rivers in the country
Madera River constitutes the vertebral column provide an important source of transportation
as a water way of the Bolivian northeast. and the means of subsistence for riverside
inhabitants. Some rivers like the Ichilo,
The Madera River is an international water Mamoré, Iténez, Beni and Madre de Dios, also
course and an adjoining course that serves as sustain a commercial fishing rural industry. A
a natural international boundary between the total of 389 fish species have been identified
Brazil and Bolivia. In Bolivia, the Madera River in the Bolivian Amazonia.
originates where the Beni and Mamoré rivers
converge. As it enters to Brazil, it changes its During 2001 and 2002, with permission
name to Madeira River and becomes the main from the government of Brazil, the Brazilian
affluent of the Amazon River. The Madera is companies Furnas Centrais Eléctricas SA
and Constructora Noberto Odebrecht SA damage and the use of water by financing
performed a study of the hydropower nergy the pavement of Corredor Vial Norte La Paz
potential of the Madera River in Bolivia and of - Guayaramerín – Cobija (Northern Highway
the Madeira River, in order to determine the Corridor La Paz Guayaramerín – Cobija).
location of four hydropower electrical plants. • Bolivia should have insisted on the
importance of performing the analysis and
The feasability studies were completed in 2004 technical discussion of the projects to be
and 2005; the Leme Engenharia company constructed in Bolivia and Brazil.
presented an Environmental Impact Study • A second issue is the current contamination
(EIS). After questioning from various Brazilian by metallic mercury due to gold mining
environmental agencies and the Bolivian operations in the Madera River.
government, the EIS was approved in 2007
by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment 5.2 The Case of Lake Titicaca
and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA Lake Titicaca is shared with the Republic of
-Instituto Brasilero del Medio Ambiente y Peru and has an extension of 8,030 Sq. Kms.
Recursos Naturales Renovables). The license with its water surface at an average altitude
for the construction of the reservoir for of 3,809 m. The average depth in the Lago
the San Antonio hydropower plant on the Grande (the larger part of the lake) is 135 m
Madeira river was granted by the Brazilian and in the Lago Pequeño (smaller part of the
government in August of 2008. lake) is 23 m. The estimated water volume is
8,966.3 x 1011 cubic m.
Related Issues:
• The construction of four reservoirs is Fishing of trout and native species is an
planned along the rivers Madeira, Madera important activity in Lake Titicaca. In the
and Beni to supply a similar number of Bolivian portion of the lake, the capture rate
hydropower plants and increase the water reaches a maximum of 2,600 tons per year.
level to aid fluvial transportation. Two of However, there is evidence of over-fishing of
the reservoirs will be built in Bolivia and two exotic species, and there is concern about
in the Brazilian side. Table 7 shows some of the future of trout and the survival of certain
the characterisitcs of the plants to be built. native species. Fishing in Lake Titicaca
• These reservoirs will have a serious supports about 1,500 and 3,500 full time, part
environmental and social impact due to the time or occasional Bolivian fishermen.
extensive flooding area estimated at more
than 2.6 x 105 Sq. Kms. Bolivia and Peru have signed the “Acuerdo
• A devastating cutting of trees is programed del Lago Titicaca (ATL)” (Lake Titicaca
in areas of the Amazon forest. The new Agreement) and a Bilateral Organitzation
area will be used for the expansion of for Lake Titicaca has been formed. The
soybean agriculture, with an estimated Lake Titicaca Authority is appointed and
annual production of 24 x 106 TM of soy. authorized to regulate all activites in the
• Brazil would compensate the ecological lake. The Unidad Operativa Boliviana de la

Table 7. Projected Power Plants

Hydropower plant Fall Installed Capacity Annual Energy

(m) (mw) (gwh)

Santo Antonio 18 3,580 19,000

Jirau 20 3,800 20,000

Abuna – Guayaramerín 20 4,200 25,000

Esperanza 15 3,800. 20,000

Autoridad Binacional del Lago Titicaca (UOB- • It has been estimated that the water
ALT) (Bolivian Operative Unit of the Binational drained through the Desaguadero River
Authority of Lake Titicaca) is the technical is 0.66 x 109 cubic m, all going to Bolivian
branch of this Bilateral Organization. territory.
• Current pollution of lake water by untreated
The activity of UOB-ALT is directed towards sewage spilled in by the town settlements on
several technical activities: thematic the shores (Puno, Copacabana and others)
cartography, including surveys; measurement is of great concern. This environmental
of flow in the main river courses of the basin; issue must be addressed by both countries.
conservation and management of natural
resources; conclusion and updating of studies 5.3 The cased of the
of the hydrographic basins of Lake Titicaca – Mauri (Maure) River
Desaguadero River – Lake Poopó – Salar de The water head of the Maure River is
Coipasa (TDPS). It also includes the execution at the Laguna Vilacota in the Peruvian
of the Direction Plan for the construction of: Cordillera Occidental, it fows through a
a) irrigation bridges, b) hydraulic works, c) large portion of Peruvian territory and
dredging of the Desaguadero River and d) then flows into Bolivia at a site near the
building of gates to control over flooding. town of Charaña (Urquidi, 2005b). It forms
part of the TDPS (Titicaca, Desaguadero,
Related Issues: Poopó, Salares) system which drains the
• The basin of Lake Titicaca is shared by Peru water of the central Bolivian Altiplano.
and Bolivia. The hydrological basin of the Maure-Mauri
• It is necessary to solve the issue of flooding River covers part of the departments of
and water regulation. Puno and Tacna (Perú), La Paz and Oruro
• The total fluvial contribution of 66.7 x 109 (Bolivia) and of the Parinacota de la
cubic m is being questioned by Peru, as Región I province (Chile).
more than 80% of the water reaching the In order to deal with the problems related
lake comes from Peruvian rivers. to the Mauri (Maure) river, Bolivia and Peru
formed the Binational Comision for the Mauri Table 8 Toxic Elements and Adequateness of Water
from the Maure-Mauri River
River (Comisión Binacional del Río Mauri)
with operating bases in La Paz and Tacna. Site B As Population Irriga-
The Comision is considered part of the (mg/l) (mg/l) Use tion
Lake Titicaca Agreement (Acuerdo del Lago
Kovire 1.43 < 0.10 Acceptable C1S1
Titicaca ALT).
Calachaca 30.5 5.63 No C3S3
Frontera 12.5 2.0 No C3S2
Related Issues: Abaroa 13.5 1.81 No C3S2
• Addressing issues of natural boron and Calacoto 10 0.69 No C351
arsenic contamination caused by the Caquena 1 8.82 0.13 No C351
upwelling of springwater in the Quebrada Caquena 2 16 0.5 No C4S3
Putina in Peru (Table 8 and FIG. 12 ). Blanco No C2S1
• A request from Peru to reduce the total M. No C2S1
flow of the Maure river to Bolivia, by cutting Calachaca
the flow of fresh water of the Maure rivers M. Acceptable C1S1
The increase in “Calachaca Site” is due to “La
• Building of channels on the Peruvian side Quebrada Putina” polluted waters.
to avoid pollution of the rivers flowing into
the Maure River. A “by pass” system will
chanel the water into channels constructed
in Peru.
• Economic compensation from Peru to
Bolivia, and possibly from Bolivia, for the
use of Lake Titicaca’s water through the
Desaguadero River.

5.4 The Cased of the Lauca River

The Lauca River water head is located in
the Ciénagas de Parinacota and the Laguna FIG. 12. Variation of Arsenic Levels in the
River Maure – Mauri
Cotacotani (4,400 m) of Chile, and flows into
the Laguna de Coipasa, close to the town of
Santa Ana de Chipaya in Bolivia (3,760 m). It
crosses the Bolivia-Chile border at Portezuela 50% of its water flow towards the Azapa Valley
de Macaya (3,892 m) at Hito XX (Urquidi, in Arica (Chile), without any compensation
2005a). Since the 1930´s, the government to Bolivia, caused the rupture of diplomatic
of Chile considers the Lauca River as a relations with Chile by Bolivia.
successive international river (transboundary)
and claimed the right to use 50% of its flow. The average flows in Bolivian territory are the
In 1962, the unilateral alteration by Chilean following:
authorities of the river course and the transfer of • Lauca River(border): 2.60 cubic m/sec.
• Sajama River: 4.99 cubic m/sec. Plata (Interamerican Committee for the
• Cosapa River: 3.00 cubic m/sec. Plata Basin).
• Turco River: 2.45 cubic m/sec. • The “Comisión Nacional de los Ríos
• Laguna Coipasa: 13.00 a 15.00 cubic m/sec. Pilcomayo y Bermejo” (National Comission
for the Rivers Pilcomayo and Bermejo) was
Related Issues: created in 1989 to coordinate and agree
• Bolivia considers that must have the real on policies and actions for international
figures of the water flow of the Lauca River negotiation of both basins. This collegiate
in Chilean territory, to ensure it receives the body has an “Oficina Técnica Nacional
50% it is entitled to. There is no information (OTNPB)” (National Technical Office) with
about the flow at the source and at the end headquarters in Tarija and is in charge of
of the water transfer channel towards the operations and technical contributions.
Azapa Valley. • In 1995, the “Comisiones Trinacional y
• Bolivia expects some sort of compensation Binacional” (Trinational and Binational
for the water tranfered to the Azapa Valley. Comissions) were created for each of the
• The reestablishment of diplomatic relations basins.
between both countries. • The OTNPB has the following programs:
* Strategic Action Plan for the Binational
5.5 The Case of the Pilcomayo Basin of the Bermejo River.
and Bermejo Rivers * Construction Program for the Las Pavas,
The Pilcomayo basin is trinational (Bolivia - Arrazayal and Cambarí Reservoirs.
Argentina - Paraguay) with a population of * Project for Comprehensive Management
1.5 million, of which 1.0 million live in Bolivia. and Master Plan of the Pilcomayo River
The Bermejo basin is binational (Bolivia - Basin.
Argentina) with a popultation of 1.12 million,
of which 243,000 are Bolivian citizens. Related Issues:
• Bolivia is the water head of the Basin.
The Rio de la Plata macro-basin is located in • Maximize the use of its water in Bolivia
the southeast corner of the country. It has (regulated flow).
a surface of approximately 224,918 Sq. Km. • Avoid causing critical damage to down
and is the second largest in Bolivia. This basin stream countries.
is shared by the departments of Tarija, Santa • Reservoir Projects (funding and uses).
Cruz, Chuquisaca, Potosí and Oruro. • Continue the projects for environmental
recovery and the disposal of sediments.
In order to manage the basins of the
Pilcomayo and Bermejo rivers, the following 5.6 The Case of the Paraguay
organizations have been formed through – Paraná Waterway
agreements signed by Bolivia, Paraguay Aguirre and Graveral ports are part of the
and Argentina: Paraguay – Paraná Waterway and they receive
• Comité Interamericano de la Cuenca del both, national and internatinal freighters. This
waterway is important since it allows Bolivia • Convoys of four barges with tugboats at
access to the Atlantic Ocean. It has a length the stern and bow navigate the Corumbá -
of 3,442 Km from its headwaters in the state of Tamengo Channel.
Mato Grosso, to the delta of the Paraná River. • Radial curvatures that are too limited.
The surface area is approximately 1,750,000 • National Ports Central Aguirre and Gravetal
Sq. Kms, with a population large than
17,000,000. In Bolivia, the area of influence 6. Issues related to Trasboundary
reaches 370,000 Sq. Kms (Santa Cruz, Tarija Underground Water
and Chuquisaca). Currently, the waterway has Underground water should be considered
a great importance for the trade of soy and in the comprehensive analysis of any water
iron minerals. It is regulated by the following management. In many cases, surface and
organizations and agreements: underground waters are interconnected.
The main areas for aquifer recharges are
• Comité Intergubernamental de la Hidrovia wetlands (moors), alluvial fans or other areas
Paraguay - Paraná (CIH) (Intergovernmental with permeable soils. In times of heavy rains,
Committee for the Paraguay-Paraná the river feeds the aquifer, while the aquifer
Waterway). discharges to the river in the dry seasons.
• Plata Basin Treaty. The areas for surface discharge are currently
• Acuerdo de Transporte Fluvial por la more scarce, due to a drop in water tables
Hidrovia Paraguay - Paraná (Puerto Cáceres- and high contamination on the recharging
Puerto de Nueva Palmira) (Agreement for areas. Underground water resources have
River Transport on the Paragua – Paraná to be quantified. Small and very limited
Waterway). local studies exist with systemized technical
• Seven additional protocols and regulations information of wells drilled in the Valle
were signed on: a) navigation and security, Alto de Cochabamba and North Altiplano.
b) insurance, c) equal opportunity conditions In 1985, the Bolivian Geological Service
to allow greater competitiveness, d) (GEOBOL) developed and published the
customs issues, e) temporary suspension of Hydrogeological Map of Bolivia.
flag, and f) solution of controversies. The
seventh protocol is a 15-year deferral of the Currently, departmental authorities have
Agreement. various internationally funded programs for
well drilling in order to provide water to rural
Related Issues: populations. However these institutions are
• There are limitations as to the number of not registering information on the wells and
barges that can be transported to Bolivian their hydrogeological characteristics. This
ports (Central Aguirre and Gravetal), due to information will be lost and will be unavailable
Brazilian infrastructure near the channel. in the future to locate, qualify and quantify the
• Convoys smaller than 2 x 2 (2,500 to numerous sub-surface basins within the national
3,000 MT) navigate the stretch Cáceres - territory. The issues related to Trasboundary
Corumbá. Underground Water are more complicated
than those about surface waters. The FIG.13 ignimbrite (mostly on the Chilean side). The
shows the main issues. saturated Andean marshes (bofedales) in the
area (mostly on the Bolivian side), are formed
over fine Recent sediments, that cover the
ignimbrites, with water from the underlying
ignimbritic aquifer.

The Departmental authorities of Potosí granted

the use of the Silala waters to the Antofagasta
(Chili) and Bolivian Railway Company Limited
by means of the Pubic Document No. 48 of
September 23rd, 1908. Since then, two Chilean
FIG. 13. The issues Related to Trasboundary compañies have made use of these waters.
Underground Water.
The waters were granted for its use in steam
6.1 The Case of Underground Water in locomotives of the railway company. Since the
the Bolivian Southwest: Silala Springs 1960s, these locomotives were replaced by
The surface water outcropping as springs, in diesel engine locomotives that are much more
the Silala area, comes from a transboundary efficient. From then on, these waters were
aquifer located on the border between Bolivia used to satisfy the water demand of the cities
and Chile. It has a hydrological gradient that of Antofagasta, Calama and others, in addition
determines a water movement form east to to the demands of the Chilean copper industry
west, which means from Bolivia to Chile. of CODELCO.

The Silala transboundary aquifer is hosted In 1908, the springs forming the Andean
in the Silala Ignimbrites (7.8 ± 0.3 Ma, marshes were channeled through open collector
Upper Miocene) and probably in infrayacent channels made of stone built by personnel of
geological formations that do not outcrop the railway company. If the marshes were not
in the area. The Silala Ignimbrites are highly disturbed, the water would have remained
fractured and outcrop due to differential standstill and evaporate rapidly. Currently, the
erosion of the volcanic rocks and faults that surface water only drains towards Chile in these
give rise to the formation of gorges widened open collectors. The surface water flows only
by fluvioglacial processes. Because of the through the man-made open channels.
relatively low degree of welding and high
fracturing of the ignimbrite, they allow high On the other hand, Chile considers the
transmissivity and permeability of the Silala water draining from the Silala springs in the
aquifer. All springs that occurre in the Silala Bolivian side as a continuous natural course
area, as much as in the Bolivian as in the of an international transboundary river. Both
Chilean side, are discharges from the Silala positions have been expressed in diplomatic
Ignimbrites aquifer. In many cases, the springs documents processed in 1999, which remain
emerge directly from joints and fissures in the unchanged to the present date.
According to C14 studies performed by the with water from the springs on main gorge
Bolivian Geological Survey towards the end of of the Chilean side. The temperature of
2006, the Silala fresh waters are ancient (not springwater is 13°C to 16°C.
fossil water), with an age of 9,300 to 10,000
years old. The flow on either side of the border is the
The hydrogeochemical and physical following:
characteristics of the water flowing from the
Silala Springs, both in the Anden Marshes Bolivian side
and in the ignimbrite walls, is a sodium • Average flow: 200 liters/sec
bicarbonate water. From a geochemical • Piexometric level: 0.40 a 0.67 m
viewpoint, a relationship was found between • Number of springs: more than 70
cations of rNa > rCa > rMg and the anions
rHCO3 > rCl > rSO4. Chilean side
• Average flow: 300 liters/sec
The RAS was determined to be class C1S1, • Number of springs: more than 30
or low salinity and low relation to Na. The
TDS values are between 111mg/Lt and 192 Related Issues:
mg/Lt, while the pH is between 7.40 and • The Silala aquifer is aconfined one without
8.35. or very little recharge. These transboundary
underground water system has to be
The electrical conductivity reveals two types ecologically preserved with its current 500
of water, one with values from 209 to 240 Liters/Sec average flow.
µs/cm found in the southern moor (bofedal), • Bolivia considers that in the past 100
and another with values from 95 a 120 µs/ years, Chile has received free surface water
cm on the northern marsh, which coincides from the Silala springs that outcrop on the

FIG. 14. Springs, Silala.

Bolivian side that do not originate a natural Related Issues:
river flow. • A multi-layer aquifer has been over-
exploited by users in Paraguay.
• Since 1997, the government of Chile offered • Paraguay questions the use of water in the
to buy 50% of the water produced on the recharge areas (Serranías de Aguaragüe).
Bolivian side, that is 100 Lt/sec, at a price still • The hydrogeological potential of the
to be determined. This offer has been recently aquifer is still not well known.
repeated by the Chilean government according • There is an urgent need for a sustainable
to publications in national media and is under use of the aquifer.
consideration by the Government of President
Evo Morales. 6.3 The Case of the Jacy -
Paraná and Parecis Aquifers
6.2 The Case of the Yrenda - Bolivia lacks the technical information related
Toba – Tarijeño Aquifer to these transboundary aquifers and that are
The aquifer called Yrendá - Toba - Tarijeño in the altered basement rocks of the Central
by Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia, has an Shield (Archean Age), along the northwestern
approximate surface of 300,000 Sq. Kms and is border between Bolivia and Brazil. In addition,
found within multi-layered non-consolidated its western boundaries in Bolivia have not
sediments of Quaternary and Tertiary age. been determined.
It is not a confined aquifer, instead it is an
aquifer system with many permeable layers Related Issues:
with variable amounts of water. • There is little information on both
sides of the border (Bolivia and Brazil)
The Bolivian part of the aquifer includes and the degree to which the aquifer is
an area corresponding to the Tarijean, “transboundary” is unknown.
Chuquisaca, and Sante Cruz del Sierra Chaco. • The areas for charge and discharge in
To the west is the Subandean Aguaragüe Bolivia are unknown.
mountainous region, while the eastern limit • The hydrogeological potential of the
is yet to be defined, but is approximately aquifers is unknown.
in the area of Mariscal Estigarribia, in the • The area has a high hydroelectric potential.
Paraguayan Central Chaco. The northern • Water is used intensively for agricultural
and southern limits are also undefined (Pasig, irrigation on the Brazilian side.
2005). • There is a need to consider the sustainable
use of water in both aquifers.
The Binational Commission for the
Management of the Yrendá – Toba – Tarijeño 6.4 The case of the Pantanal Aquifer
Aquifer System (Comisión Binacional en la This Cenozoic transboundary aquifer is
Gestión del Sistema Acuífero Yrendá - Toba located on the southeastern border of Bolivia
– Tarijeño) was created to study and collect with Brazil. From an ecological, economic
technical information. and social point of view, it is one of the most
important continental systems. In the State of integración (El caso boliviano). La Paz,
Rondonia, Brazil, it extends beyond 160,000 Bolivia. 38 p.
Sq. Kms, however its surface to the west as 5. MAGDR-PRONAR (2001) Mapa de
it enters Bolivia, is still to be established. It Ordenamiento Hidroecológico de
forms extensive “curiches” (swamps formed Bolivia, Correlación con niveles de
by flooding) and flooded areas with a pobreza y degradación de recursos
length greater than 150 Km parallel to the naturales renovables. La Paz, Bolivia.
international border. Technical information 6. Mattos, R. Y Crespo, A. (2000) Informe
on the aquifer is completely lacking in the nacional sobre la gestión del agua en
Bolivian sources. Bolivia.
7. Maurice-Bourgoin, L. (2001) El mercurio
Related Issues: en la Amazonía Boliviana. La Paz,
• Information on the aquifer is very scarce, Bolivia. 75 p.
almost non existence, on the Bolivian side. 8. MDSP-JICA (1999) Estudio de
• The discharge areas are unknown in Bolvian evaluación del impacto ambiental del
territory. sector minero, en el departamento de
• The water surface level on the Brazilian side Potosí. Mitsui Mineral Development
varies from 6 to 8 meters. Engineering Co., Ltd., Unico
• It is lacated within an important ecological International Corporation.
region: El Pantanal. 9. MDSP (2001) Estrategia nacional de
• The border is a source of conflict from the biodiversidad. 193 p.
agricultural point of view, especially on the 10. Montes de Oca P., I. (2005). Geografía y
Brazilian side. Recursos Naturales de Bolivia. Editorial
• It is an area with an important future Offset Boliviana Ltda. La Paz, Bolivia.
in mining, especially of iron minerals, 11. Pasig, R. (2005). Aguas Subterráneas
corresponding to the Mutun in Bolivia and en el Sudeste de Bolivia. Política
the Urucum in Brazil. Exterior en Materia de Recursos
Hídricos. UDAPEX (Ministerio de
7. References Relaciones Exteriores y Culto)-PNUD.
1. Baldivieso Manrique, G. (2005). Bolivia EDOBOL. La Paz, Bolivia.
es una Potencia Hídrica Amenazada 12. Quiroga B., R., Salamanca, L. A.,
por la Desertificación. La Razón. La Paz, Espinosa, J. C., Torrico, G. (2008). Atlas
Bolivia. Amenazas, Vulnerabilidad y Riesgos de
2. Constitución Política del Estado. Bolivia. Plural Editorial. La Paz, Bolivia.
Promulgada el 7 de Febrero de 2009. 13. Rebouças, A. da C. 2006. Águas
Impresión Oficial, Gaceta Oficial. Subterrâneas. Águas Doces no Brasil.
3. INE (2001) Encuesta de Hogares - 1999. Escrituras. 3ra. Edic. São Paulo, Brasil.
La Paz, Bolivia. 235 p. 14. Roche, M. A. et al. (1992). Balance
4. Liebers Baldivieso, A. (2002) Agua: Hídrico Superficial. Publicación PHICAB.
de elemento de conflicto a fuente de La Paz, Bolivia.
15. Urquidi Barrau, F. (2005a). Recursos
hídricos en la frontera boliviano-chilena
(Silala y Lauca). Política Exterior en
Materia de Recursos Hídricos. UDAPEX
(Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y
Culto)-PNUD. EDOBOL. La Paz, Bolivia.
16. Urquidi Barrau, F. (2005b). Recursos
hídricos en la frontera boliviano-
peruana (Mauri). Política Exterior en
Materia de Recursos Hídricos. UDAPEX
(Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y
Culto)-PNUD. EDOBOL. La Paz, Bolivia.

Boats over the sea in Buzios,Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Water Policy to water resources need a vigorous and long

term strategy in order to sustain a permanent

in Brazil improvement on the water policy. Regions

which require a special attention with regards
to the water policy in Brazil are the Amazon and
José Galizia Tundisi1, Marcos Cortesão the Northeast.
Barnsley Scheuenstuhl2
2. Water Resources in Brazil
Instituto Internacional de Ecología, São Carlos, Brazil has 12% of the Planet Earth’s fresh
Brasil water resources. These resources are unevenly
Instituto Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología distributed throughout its national territory,
en Recursos Minerales, Agua y Biodiversidad which extends from 5º north latitude to 34º
(Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología) south latitude, with a variety of climates and
Feevale University, RS climatological influences which range from the
Equatorial region, to the cold fronts originating
Academia Brasileña de Ciencias
in the Antarctic Zone. The average precipitation
in Brazil (historical data 1961-2007) is of 1,765
mm, ranging from 500 mm in the semiarid
Key words: Water resources; water availability;
water quality; hydrological cycles; contamina- regions of Northeast Brazil to 3,000 mm in the
tion; management, water policy. Amazon region (FIG. 1). The main watersheds
of Brazil are represented by 12 hydrographic
1. Introduction regions. The three most significant ones
In this document the authors describe are: the Amazon Watershed, The Paraná
the distribution, the availability and the Watershed and the São Francisco River
contamination of the water resources in Watershed (FIG. 2).
Brazil as well as the water policy needed to
cope with these problems. The institutional In FIG. 3 we see the spatial distribution of
organization of the integrated management specific water discharge which ranges from less
of water in Brazil is presented, and challenges than 2 liter/second/km2 (in semiarid region of
to further develop a water policy in Brazil are the Northeast) to more than 30 liters/second/
discussed. These challenges range from, a km2. Currently, fluviometric stations all over
better enforcement of a legal framework at Brazil are providing representative data showing
watershed level, to reduce contamination specific discharge at all twelve watersheds. The
and disasters which occur due to hydrological distribution of ground waters in Brazil is also
changes and watershed degradation, to the inconsistent. There are regions with abundant
development of technologies for an adequate water availability (such as The Guarani Aquifer
ecological management of water resources with in southern Brazil and other sedimentary
regards to watershed protection, restoration, aquifers) and regions with low availability
prevention and deterioration. Investments in (such as those of the crystalline rocks in the
Science, Innovation and Technology dedicated semiarid regions). The sedimentary aquifers
occupy 48% of Brazil´s total area. FIG. 4 shows in the 12 watersheds. Among the consumptive
the area of recharge of aquifers in relation to uses are: public supply (urban and rural),
the twelve hydrographic basins. The number industry and irrigation. As for non consumptive
of new wells constructed for exploitation of uses, we can cite: hydroelectricity, fisheries,
ground water is around 10.500/year in Brazil, navigation, agriculture, tourism and recreation)
which shows the economic importance of (FIG. 5). An important issue in Brazil is the
this resource. discharge of used water into reservoirs, rivers
and lakes. When this water is not treated (as is
frequently the case) it becomes a problem that
needs to be seriously considered, seeing that
the water becomes unavailable to support any
other activity which depends on clean water.
Hydroelectricity generates 68% of the total
energy produced in Brazil (Agência Nacional
de Energia Eléctrica, inf. 2008). The potential
of hydroelectricity in the southeast of Brazil
is now almost worn out, therefore a large
percentage of them potential of hydropower
SOURCE ANA 2009 still remains in the Amazon region (70% of
FIG. 1. Average Precipitation in Brazil
all hydroelectricity potential of Brazil). This
is an issue which needs to be considered
for the future water policy in Brazil (Tundisi
& Matsumura-Tundisi, 2010a; Tundisi and
Campagnoli, in preparation).

4. Multiple Water Uses and Conflicts

The multiple uses of water in Brazil, together
with the economic development of the
country, have generated conflicts in the
following areas:
1. Water use in agriculture and the supply of
water for urban areas;
2. The public supply of water has been
affected due to an increase of agribusiness
FIG. 2. The Twelve Hydrographic Watersheds of Brazil
production and deforestation, which have
3. Water Uses affected areas of recharge of aquifers, and
As in many other countries or regions of the water quality at their sources.
world the forms of utilization of water in Brazil 3. Expansion of urban non treated solid waste
are diversified and their intensity is related to the disposal and the water quality of surface
economic, social and agricultural development and ground water.
4. Expansion of hydroelectricity impact in 6. Increase in the cost of treatment of water
the tributaries of the Amazon River and due to the degradation of the sources,
disruption of the hydrosocial cycle. deforestation, and contamination of aquifers.
5. Heavy contamination by toxic metals, 7. Impacts of degraded water on human health,
eutrophication, excessive use of fertilizers mainly in urban and metropolitan regions.
in agriculture, discharge of non-treated
domestic water and costs of water treatment. 5. The Water Quality in Brazil
The present situation of water quality in Brazil
is a consequence of several impacts which
resulted from the following situations
1. Urbanization and discharge of non-treated
waste water in rivers, lakes and reservoirs
(UNESCO, UNEP, 2008).
2. Inadequate disposal of solid waste, which
impacts the surface and the ground waters.
3. Agricultural activities with excessive use of
fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
4. Industrial activities with effluents containing
toxic metals; deforestation and the increase
of transportation of suspended material
reducing the volume of the reservoirs,
changing morphometry of the rivers and the
FIG. 3. Spatial Distribution of Specific
Discharge in Brazil natural lakes; mining activities degrading
the surface and ground waters; production

Total Water: 1,841.5 m3/S


FIG. 4. Recharge Area of the Main Aquifers in Brazil FIG. 5. Uses of Water in Brazil
of hydroelectricity and construction of and Northeast have a low Water Quality
reservoirs which change river flows, river Index and a high Eutrophic Index as a result
biodiversity and are the cause of several of human activities and the concentration
impacts on major watersheds such as the of waste water and toxic substances and
Paraná, São Francisco and the Amazon River elements (FIG. 6 and FIG. 7).
tributaries (Straskraba & Tundisi, 2008;
Tundisi & Matsumura-Tundisi, T, 2008). In certain regions of the country, such as in some
reservoirs of the Paraná and São Francisco
As a consequence of the several economic watersheds, the use of water for fisheries,
activities and the multiple uses of water, recreation and to supply the population was
the main problems of water pollution and prohibited due to the heavy degradation.
contamination are the increase of toxicity
of the surface and ground waters; the The degradation of water quality in Brazil
eutrophication of rivers and reservoirs with can also be aggravated due to hydrologic
excessive growth of toxic cyanobacteria extremes. For example, with heavy rains and
causing organic contamination of water high discharge in urban and metropolitan
sources, especially near the large urban regions, contamination can increase three to
centers and metropolitan regions; siltation, four times its usual (Tucci & Mendes, 2006;
and emission of greenhouse gases from IIEGA/PMSP, 2009). During extreme events
eutrophic waters. (Azevedo, 2005; Jorgensen of dryness in the Northeast, eutrophication in
et al., 2005; Tucci & Mendes, 2006; Straskaba reservoirs, used for storage of drinking water
and Tundisi, 2008; Tundisi et al., 2006; Abe and for quenching animal thirst, can frequently
et al., 2009; Sidagis Galli, et al., 2009; ANA. be a source of water quality degradation.
2009; Bicudo, Tundisi and Cortesão S., 2010).
The Water Quality Index shows critical
negative values in the upper Paraná watershed
(Tietê and Iguaçu Rivers) located in the south
and southeast regions. The cost of water
treatment in the watersheds of the southeast
and south regions is very high (more than 200
US dollars/1,000m3). The Trophic State Index
for Brazil is also high in the southeast and
south regions. Eutrophic and hypereutrophic
waters in these regions are a source of heavy
expenses with regards to water treatment,
impairing multiple uses such as recreation,
tourism and fisheries (Tundisi et al., 2006).
As a general trend, the surface and ground
FIG. 6. Percentage of Treatment of Wastewater in Brazil
waters of watersheds of the South, Southeast
A general overview and trend of the capacity own watershed committees consolidating
of assimilation of organic discharge also shows their plans and their watershed agencies. In
a picture that matches the Water Quality Index addition they created a plan for the economic
and the Trophic State Index; the surface and development of the watersheds and for the
ground waters of the watersheds located in the use of water, and formed state agencies
south and southeast region have low capacity responsible for controlling pollution and
of assimilation of organic discharge, whereas water contamination. The advances in the
in the Amazon region watersheds have high legislation were registered in regions or
capacity for assimilation of organic discharge states where water conflicts over water uses
(78% of the Amazonian rivers) (ANA 2009). and water availability existed (ANA, 2002).

The process of institutionalization, therefore

is more advanced in the south, southeast
and northeast watersheds where initial
problems already occurred. The National
System of Integrated Water Management
in Brazil consists of the National Council for
Water Resources, the Secretary of Water
Resources of the Ministry of Environment, the
National Water Agency, the State Councils
for Water Resources, the State Agencies and
the Watershed Committees and Watershed
Agencies (Braga, et al., 2006).

The consolidation of the institutional framework

in Brazil is also due to the establishment
SOURCE: MOSS & MOSS 2005 of mechanisms to support research and
FIG. 7. The Scenario of the Water Quality in Brazil 2007 development in the water sector: The
implementation of the sectorial funds on
6. The Institutional Development water resources, which allocates 1% of the
of Water Resources Management profit of private business in water to support
The Brazilian water law was edited by the projects on mineral research, hydroelectricity
Federal Government in 1997 (law 9.433 of and environmental problems, was a major
January 8th, 1997). From that year on, until achievement. These sectorial funds, established
2007 all 27 Brazilian states, edited their water in 1999, enabled scientific and technological
law. The Brazilian water law promoted several development, which supported the work of
advances in the integration of management the watershed committees and agencies.
of water resources in Brazil: first an ample Therefore financial resources are now adequate
decentralization process was put into for the expansion of water research and for
practice, with each state implementing their technological advances.
These advances at federal and state levels of planning and management; subsystem
were not followed by the organization of the of quality and quantity and a subsystem
water management at the municipal level; of “water intelligence”(geographical/
therefore, this is one of the major challenges territorial information and documentation
needed to be addressed in the water policy on water resources). Water pricing is at
in Brazil. Another relevant challenge is present implemented in four watersheds,
the need to establish adequate pricing in Brazil, with a tendency to improve and
mechanisms. For example, agricultural be established in federal and state rivers.
use of water is heavily subsidized thus
preventing better and more efficient use of 7. Challenges for the
water for food production. Water Policy in Brazil
7.1 Social Challenges
For the interstate watersheds, plans for water Despite the institutional progress in the
resource management are in progress but organization of the integrated water resources
show slow advances. The specification of management in Brazil, huge problems still exist
desired standards of water quality of the rivers, with regards to proving water and sanitation
lakes and reservoirs related to the multiple services to the entire population. The water
uses of water, is also slow, considering the availability is relatively good, with about 80%
economic pressure for more water withdrawals of the population being supplied with clean
in different sectors of activities. water. But the sanitation problem is enormous
and complex. With only 30% of the wastewater
The licensing for water withdrawals has been in being treated and very poor systems of solid
progress since the editing of the water law in waste disposal and removal, the contamination
1997. This authorization is given by the National of surface and ground waters are high and
Water Agency and includes all multiple uses such severely impact human health (ANA, 2009). As
as public supply of water, extraction of ground expressed in OECD (2003), “many social issues
water for several purposes, hydroelectricity involved in water management”, (pp. 33 “key
and food production. Currently water license trends and challenges”) can be analyzed in
for withdrawals has been given to 3.520m3/s terms of “equity”.
in several of the twelve watersheds of Brazil
(ANA, 2009). The largest water withdrawals This means equity among income groups. In
licenses were granted in the Paraná watershed Brazil poorer consumers can be found paying
(1,300m3/s). more for the water due to an inefficient
distribution system. And in the surroundings
The National System of Information for of the urban areas of all metropolis of
water resources in Brazil is coordinated by Brazil (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador,
the National Water Agency and started Recife, Porto Alegre, Belém, Fortaleza and
to be implemented in the year 2000. This Manaus), around 30 million people need
system consists of four major components: adequate sanitation (solid waste disposal
subsystem of use and regulation; subsystem and wastewater treatment) (Tundisi &
Matsumura-Tundisi, 2010c). The current data, soil uses, agricultural activities and water
situation of urban rivers is a picture of this quality of streams, large rivers, reservoirs
problem: most urban rivers in large cities and lakes (Braga, et al., 2006; Tucci, 2007).
or small towns are polluted and degraded The pressure to increase food production is
and need urgent projects for restoration and becoming a threat to natural areas of forests,
recovery (Tucci and Mendes, 2006). riparian vegetation and wetlands. Removal
There is also a disparity among regions with of vegetation by increasing the area of
regards to having access to water services agriculture is one of the urgent problems to
and wastewater treatment. Rural populations be solved by both the municipalities and the
are affected in many regions of Brazil with federal and state agencies. Changes in water
regards to having limited access to water quality of surface water due to the removal
and sanitation services. Consumption levels of riparian forests, mosaics of vegetation and
also show disparities among regions in Brazil wetlands were demonstrated recently (Tundisi
(Rebouças, et al., 2006). & Matsumura-Tundisi, 2010b). A modification
of the forest protection law in benefit of
The large scale deficit in sanitation in Brazil is agriculture production is in discussion in the
thus a social challenge of the highest priority, Brazilian Congress, mobilizing society, the
concerning reduction of vulnerability of Brazilian Academy of Sciences and scientists
periurban populations. Diseases generated in order to stop changes that will be harmful
from poor water distribution or non treatment to the water availability and quality as well as
of wastewater is high. The changes in the to biodiversity.
hydrosocial cycle as a consequence of
human activities such as the construction On the other hand there are several initiatives
of reservoirs, are not yet well understood in to improve reforestation by promoting
Brazil and efforts to measure the impacts, incentives to farmers. These initiatives at
reduce or remove them are needed municipal level are being adopted in many
especially considering the expansion of the regions of Brazil and will undoubtedly be
hydroelectricity production (Tundisi and countermeasures to the deforestation
Campagnoli, in preparation). process and the possible changes in the
federal law. In many Brazilian towns of
7.2 Integrated Water Resources 200,000 to 500,000 inhabitants, the proposal
and Watershed Management for the protection of areas that are important
Efforts to implement an integrated policy to water supply and aquifer recharge have
for the management of water resources at been made, creating new opportunities
watershed level in Brazil have to be enhanced for improving water management. The
through the support of the large scale improvement of the practices of river basin
decentralization program which is currently in management, adopting the ecosystem
progress. This will include attention to surface approach, is a step that is being incorporated
and ground water management, and the in water management initiatives in Brazil.
promotion of an integration of biogeophysical Though this is still a relatively slow process,
this concept is already established in several restoration, prevent floods and inundations
states and regions reflecting a positive trend and can be a new alternative technology to be
in the necessary advances for management applied in many regions of Brazil (Straskaba
(IIEGA/PMSP, 2009). & Tundisi, 2008). In urban and metropolitan
regions ecohydrological technologies are
7.3 Protection and Restoration of in progress (IIEGA/PMSP, 2009), though still
Surface and Ground Waters very limited to a few experiences.
The large scale of contamination and
pollution in Brazil is a consequence of a long 7.4 Climate Change and
term process of watershed degradation, Water Resources
discharge of wastewater, excessive soil uses For the last 10 years, studies on the
and toxicity impacts. The degradation of the variability of climate and climatic changes
ecological values and services of freshwater in South America and in Brazil are being
ecosystems is followed by a general increase developed with great intensity. Variations
in the vulnerability of populations (urban in rainfall and discharges in the Amazon
and rural) to toxic chemicals and pathogens. and Northeast Brazil show interannual
The capacity of fish production in rivers, and decadal patterns. These variations
reservoirs and lakes has been impaired are more important than the trends for the
by this deterioration either directly, by constant reduction of rainfall (Marengo,
producing mass mortality, or indirectly, by 2006). Variability is associated to patterns
stopping consumption of contaminated of oscillation related to the El Niño
fish, crustaceans and mollusks (Tundisi, et (ENOS), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation
al., 2006). Dealing with invasive species is – PDO, The North Atlantic Oscillation –
another management priority. Mollusks such NAO and the variability of Tropical and
as Limnoperna fortunei (mussel) and fishes South Atlantic.
introduced from other continents or even
other watersheds in Brazil are considerably Impacts of the El Niño or La Niña have been
changing the structure of food chains and in observed in the north and northeast regions
the organization of the ecological network in (dry periods) and South Brazil (dryness during
rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, with impacts on La Niña and excess rainfall and floods during
fisheries (Rocha, et al., 2005). El Niño). With the increase of the frequency
Additionally, the intensive development or intensity of El Niño, Brazil will be subject to
of aquaculture with non native species is more dry periods or floods or warmer spells
an impact of considerable magnitude in (Marengo & Nobre, 2001; NAE, 2005 a,b;
several watersheds in Brazil. Technologies Marengo & Silva Dias, 2004a).
for restoration of watersheds need to The phenomena of El Niño and La Niña in
be introduced at a larger scale in Brazil the Equatorial Pacific, and the meridional
(Zalewsky, 2007). gradient of the temperatures (temperature
Ecohydrological technologies combined with at sea surface) over the Tropical Atlantic are
ecological processes can reduce costs of responsible, in great part, for the interannual
variability of climate in South America. Cold and their impacts in the water quantity and
fronts from Antarctica affect the climate of water distribution.
the south and southeast regions and the
ecological and limnological functioning
of lakes, rivers and reservoirs (Tundisi,
et al., 2004, 2006, 2010). One important
achievement in the studies of the water
flux in Brazil was the understanding of the
fundamental role the Amazon region plays
on the water balance and hydrological cycle
of central and southeast areas of Brazil.
FIG. 8. The Moisture Flux from Amazonia to the
Marengo, et al. (2004 a) have proposed a Southeast Accordingly to the Conceptual Model of
conceptual model, with jetts of moisture Marengo el al (2004 a)
being transported from the Amazon to the
Southeast and la Plata basin (FIG. 8). The - Nucleo de Assuntos Estratégicos da
The climate changes in Brazil and the impacts Presidência da República – the Nuclei for
on the hydrological cycle, water distribution, Strategic Studies of the Presidency of Brazil
floods and dry periods, have to be understood has developed studies, scenarios and trend
against a large scale of land use, deforestation analysis in order to promote policies for
and increased and inadequate solid waste adaptation and mitigation of the impacts of
disposal. For example, a synergy between climatic changes such as large floods in urban
untreated wastewater and the warming of areas or long dry periods in certain regions
surface temperature in lakes and reservoirs, (Tucci and Mendes, 2006, Tucci, 2007).
could result in heavy blooms of cyanobacteria Seminars on climatic changes and possible
and increase in the frequency of toxic blooms impacts on the water resources led to
as discussed by Tundisi, et al. (2010). discussions and proposals for the intensification
on modeling efforts in order to develop more
The “savanization” of the Amazon could result accurate scenarios of consequences of climatic
in 30% less water for the south and southeast changes in the hydrological cycle and on the
regions of Brazil, with enormous social and economy (Tundisi, 2010, in press).
economic impacts. Changes in discharge of
rivers of the Pantanal (largest wetland in the 7.5 The Hydrological Extremes
world 200,000 km2) were already observed and Impacts in Brazil
by Tucci (2003) and Tucci & Braga (2003). The In the last five years hydrological extremes
impacts of climatic changes can affect human combined with inadequate use of land and
health, also, due to the increase in the number watershed deterioration have caused many
of temporary ponds and the growth of vectors disasters in Brazil with loss of lives and
of water borne diseases (NAE, 2005 a,b). The properties. In January 2011 landslides due to
water policy in Brazil is addressing some of the heavy precipitation, well above the average
problems related to possible climatic changes for Southeast Brazil, claimed 1.000 lives and
economic losses of U$500 million (FIG. 9). and non point sources of contaminants and
The FIG. 9 shows the extension of the cold nutrients originated in urban regions near
front in Southeast Brazil that resulted in coastal areas, is urgently needed.
disasters on January 13th 2011. This was a
result of cold fronts from the Antarctic with 7.7 Improvement of Drinking
a contribution of excess moisture from the Water Quality, Risk Control
Amazon resulting in heavy rains and excess and Vulnerability Reduction
drainage. The prevention of these disasters, Contamination of drinking water due to poor
by removing people from potential areas of infrastructure occurs in Brazil in large and
impact, by educating decision makers to apply small towns. The most common cause is the
correct public policies, by creating artificial contamination of the distribution systems.
wetlands and areas of water retention, is an Corrosion of pipes, damages to pipes due to
urgent need (Tucci and Braga, 2003, Tucci, construction or repairs, low pressure on pipes,
2007). The potential population in Brazil all lead to outbreaks of waterborne diseases.
subject to these disasters and living in areas Inadequate control of chemical substances
of risk is 20 million people. The prevention and inadequate filtration are other causes.
of these disasters should be a priority in the There is a need to improve the technical
water policy in Brazil, articulated with territorial quality of the distribution and water treatment
and regional studies and water management. systems. Monitoring of water quality at the
catchment (introduced in the year 2000), was a
7.6 Contamination of Coastal Waters significant policy implemented for the control
The concentration of the human population of water contamination in Brazil, assisting in
in urban and metropolitan areas resulted, as the determination of adequate treatment for
shown, in the contamination of rivers, lakes drinking purposes. This is a compulsory law
and reservoirs in an unprecedented scale. enforced in all of Brazil (Tundisi & Matsumura-
Since most of the Brazilian population is also Tundisi, 2010c).
concentrated near or in the coastal areas, The control of water quality for drinking
contamination of estuaries, bays and coastal purposes also needs the implementation and
waters is also increasing. Lacerda et al (2008) introduction of advanced technology in order
have shown that nitrogen and phosphorus to establish limit standards to the presence of
from anthropogenic sources are producing persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Increased
an over enrichment of the estuaries along the risk and vulnerability of human population
Ceará, state coast in Northeast Brazil. This is to dissolved organics and viruses have to
mainly due to urban runoff and solid waste be considered in the development of new
disposal affecting surface waters. Evidence of molecular techniques.
contribution of non point emissions of Cd and
Zn contamination in Sepetiba Bay (Southeast 7.8 Strategic Studies
Brazil), confirm the quantitative importance 7.8.1 Hydroelectricity
of these sources (Lacerda and Molisari, 2006). Strategic studies on the use of hydroelectricity
Recovery of estuaries, impacted by point should address the Amazon region that
could potentially supply, in the future, 70% increase of the population in areas of risk,
of the hydroelectricity of Brazil. This must increase of urban growth and variability of
be considered regarding biodiversity loss, the hydrological cycle associated to climatic
greenhouse gas emissions, and change in the changes. In Brazil with 80% of the human
hydrosocial cycle in the river morphology and population located in metropolitan regions
flow. As the aquatic fauna of rivers is severely or urban areas, infrastructure and soil use
impacted by reservoirs, the large catfish living are deteriorated especially in the periurban
in the tributaries of the Amazon can be affected areas of midsize (< 1,000,000 inhabitants) or
running the risk of depletion of stocks and even larger metropolis (> 5,000,000 inhabitants).
extinction. Therefore the location, engineering, Areas of risk are extensive and the population
retention time, volume and inundated areas considered vulnerable amounts to about 20
of reservoirs should be strategically studied million inhabitants. The fragmentation of the
in order to preserve important areas of mega watersheds due to urbanization is a reality,
biodiversity and the hydrosocial cycle (Tundisi generating consequences on the water
and Campagnoli, in preparation). cycle, floods and the deterioration of water
quality. Strategic studies on these impacts,
7.8.2 Water and Economy development of alarm systems, and removal
The relevance of the national water resources of populations are urgent actions needed to
in the economic development of Brazil improve the National water policy.
is well known. Water is fundamental for
food production, hydroelectricity, navigation,
recreation and fisheries. Studies on the
relationship between the limits of economic
growth and the surface and ground water
availability are required. The use of economic
instruments to manage water resources (such as
the water polluter pays or the water consumer
pays principles) requires further strategic
studies (Canepa, et al. 2006, Hartman, 2010).

7.8.3 The Social and Economic Impact

of Hydrological Changes and Extreme FIG .9. Cold Front in Southeast Brazil on January 13th 2011
As referred by Tucci (2007), the management
of risks related to natural disasters has social 7.9 Water and Human Health
and economic implications that need to be In Brazil many water borne diseases still
analyzed. Between 1994 and 2003 losses due persist despite national government efforts or
to natural disasters amount to 6.8 billion U$ regional actions. Schistosomiasis, Leptospirosis
dollars in all countries. The recent trend in intoxication by toxins of cyanobacteria, and
the growth of natural disasters is due to the dengue fever are diseases that affect millions
of people all over Brazil, especially in periurban River, which is the most important water
areas and rural villages (700,000 cases of source for the Northeast, is now suffering a
dengue fever in 2008 and 8,000,000 infected process of water depletion, contamination by
with Schistosomiasis all over the country heavy metals and toxic substances, and water
(Confalonieri, et al. 2010). One relevant discharge. The waters of the São Francisco
development in the area of water resources River are now being transferred to the eastern
and human health is the management of and western parts of the northeast region,
contamination and the adoption of targets through a series of artificial channels (26 m3/s).
to reduce morbidity and mortality due to This could change the economy and the life
lack of sanitation. Children of one up to five quality of millions of people. Notwithstanding,
years of age are affected by water borne the success of this process depends on close
disease causing high infant mortality. The evaluation of the development programs and
development of an index of water/human human capacity building.
health/environment could be very helpful in
the setting up of targets based on concrete 7.11 International Watersheds
actions and measures (Confalonieri et al. 2010). Brazil and 4 other countries (Argentina, Bolívia,
Paraguay, Uruguay) share the La Plata Basin
7.10 The Amazon and Northeast with, 3,000,000 km2and 120 million inhabitants.
Regions of Brazil The Amazon Basin shared by Ecuador, Peru,
An integrated management of water resources Colombia, Venezuela, French Guiana, British
in the Amazon region is a priority. Guiana and Suriname, has 5,000,000 km2,
The characteristics of this region consisting scarce population and abundant water supply.
of high rainfall, abundant discharge of rivers In the water policy of Brazil, the integration
(Amazon River 225,000 m3/s), interactions of with these countries in the sharing of water
rivers and forests and high biodiversity are resources is essential for future economic
relevant natural assets of Brazil. Investment in development and future multiple uses.
Science and Technology in the Amazon and
the further development of ecological studies 7.12 Research Needs
articulated with economic evaluations of the There is a need to include Science,
“natural capital” and ecosystem services, and Technology and Innovation in the planning
a better knowledge of the hydrosocial cycle and implementation of integrated water
- such as the Homo sapiens interaction with resources management. Research, technology
the water and ecosystems - is a priority. Efforts and innovation are essential components
in capacitating technical staff of scientists and of the integrated management process.
water managers are essential (Val, et al., 2010). Improving technology for eutrophication
and contamination abatement, development
An equally relevant challenge is the semiarid of new desalination technologies and water
region of Northeast Brazil. This is the home reuse, and implementation of data banks of
of 30 million people that suffer from water national and regional levels constitute major
scarcity on a daily basis. The São Francisco challenges.
Integration of ecologists, engineers and Brazil water policy challenges:
limnologists is needed for these advances • Further efforts to implement integrated
(Hespanhol, 2010, Tundisi & Matsumura- watershed management at the watersheds
Tundisi, 2010a). Research to support (state and national watersheds).
technical criteria for adoption of measures for • Adopt water quality targets, sanitation
protection and vulnerability of aquifers is also targets (domestic wastewater treatment and
needed (Hirata et al., 2010). Additionally, the solid waste disposal and treatment), in order
development of guidelines of contamination to reduce risk and vulnerability especially of
based on bioindicators, ecological and periurban and rural populations.
limnological studies at different watersheds • Promote heavy investments at federal,
are needed (Bere and Tundisi, 2010, Tundisi, state and municipal levels to reduce water
et al., 2010a). contamination by fertilizers, pesticides and
toxic metal.
8. Conclusions • Develop strategies for solving conflicts over
The water policy in Brazil considering present multiple water uses: hydroelectricity in areas
and future perspectives was discussed in this of high biodiversity (as the Amazon region),
document. Brazil is a country with abundant regional impacts on the hydrosocial cycle,
water resources unevenly distributed in growth of agriculture and deforestation, with
relation to the distribution of population and impacts on water sources for public supply.
economic activities. Water uses in Brazil are • Develop and stimulate strategic studies in
diversified with approximately 70% used water resources, economic development
in agriculture and 30% in water supply for and the use of economic instruments for
human uses, industries, fisheries, recreation, integrated water resources management
tourism, navigation and hydroelectricity. (the polluter pays and the consumer pays
The Brazilian water law was established in 1997 • Promote integrated watershed management,
and the implementation of integrated water with an ecosystem concept introducing
resources management has evolved since new and less costly technologies such as
then. In 10 years, the 27 states in Brazil have ecohydrology and ecotechnologies. These
established councils for water management and management practices can be articulated
systems of water management throughout the with ecological studies and the introduction
watershed committees. In 2001 the National of technologies for recovery of streams,
Water Agency was founded with the objective urban rivers, large rivers, and protection of
to coordinate actions at federal level, and help aquifers.
implement the integrated water management • Promote studies for the economic
process at each region with federal rivers and evaluation of freshwater ecosystem
each state of the Brazilian federation. Despite services such as the role of wetlands
considerable advances at institutional level and riparian forests in the maintenance
and a continuous search for efficiency and of water quality and water quantity and
decentralization, problems remain. maintaining biodiversity.
• Develop strategies, study groups and of CNPq and of the Brazilian Academy of
implement actions for the reduction of the Sciences is gratefully acknowledged.
impact of disasters of hydrological origin due
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Núcleo de Assuntos Estratégicos da 36. Tucci, E.M.C & Braga, B. (Orgs.) (2003).
presidência da República, NAE-SECOM Clima e Recursos Hídricos no Brasil, ABRH,
2005, Brasília, 500 pp. ANA, Forum Brasileiro de Mudanças
28. OECD (2003). Improving water Climáticas, 348 pp.
management: recent OECD, Experience, 37. Tucci, E.M.C. (2003). Recursos hidrológicos
IWA Publishing, 128 pp. e os impactos do uso do solo, pp. 31-76.
29. Rebouças, A.; Braga,B.; Tundisi, J.G. In: Tucci, C.E.M., Braga, B. Orgs. Clima e
Recursos Hídricos no Brasil, ABRH, ANA, Internacionale Vereinigung Limnologie,
GWP, Forum Brasileiro de Mudanças Vol. 29, pp. 2124-2128.
Climáticas, 348 pp. 45. Tundisi, J.G.; Matsumura-Tundisi, T.;
38. Tundisi, J.G. & Campagnoli, F. (2011). Galli, C.S. (2006) (eds.) b) Eutrofização na
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preparation). e tecnologias para gerenciamento
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(2010a). Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovação e Internacional de Ecologia, Associação
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(2010b). Potential impacts of changes 47. Tundisi, J.G.; Matsumura-Tundisi, T.;
in the forest law in relation to water Arantes Junior, J.D.; Tundisi, J.E.M.;
resources, Biota Neotropica, Vol. 10 nº 4 Manzini, N.F. and Ducrot, R. (2004). The
(in press). response of Carlos Botelho (Lobo/Broa)
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Peak covered with snow, Coast Range near
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Water Resources international trading agreements. Because of

its vastness and the rich diversity of climate

in Canada regions and ecosystems, Canada has many

regional water problems to solve such as
A Strategic Viewpoint melting glaciers in the Rocky Mountains,
droughts in the Prairies, high water demand
Keith Hipel1, Andrew D. Miall2, Daniel W. Smith3 in the oil sands, flooding in Manitoba,
fluctuating water levels and pollution in the
Former Vice President of the Canadian Aca-de- Great Lakes, expanded hydroelectric power
my of Science, Royal Society of Canada, Senior developments in northern Quebec and
Fellow, Centre for International Governance In- Labrador, and the threat of water exports,
novation, University Professor, Department of especially from the Great Lakes.
Systems Design Engineering, University of Wa-
terloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada A wide variety of challenging water-related
problems to tackle occur in many regions
Former President of the Canadian Academy of Canada: groundwater over-exploitation,
of Science, Royal Society of Canada, Gordon contaminants of emerging concern, brownfield
Stollery Chair in Basin Analysis and Petroleum prevention and redevelopment, bottled water,
Geology, Department of Geology, University of and the increasing negative impacts of climate
Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada change. Accordingly, specific recommendations
are put forward for achieving enlightened water
Director, Applied Science and Engineering governance in Canada as well as internationally.
Division, Academy of Science, Royal Society Moreover, connected governance innovations
of Canada, Professor Emeritus, Department of related to climate change, energy and trade are
Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cross also formulated.
Appointment, School of Public Health, Univer-
sity of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2. Overall Water Situation in Canada
1. Introduction Canada has a reputation of being blessed
All levels of government in Canada with vast quantities of freshwater, given the
should adopt an adaptive, integrative and many prominent bodies of water that feature
participatory approach to water governance on its landscape, including the Great Lakes,
from a systems thinking perspective for many other giant lakes (Great Slave, Great
proactively addressing existing strategic water Bear, Winnipeg) and the thousands of lakes
problems as well as unforeseen difficulties that dotting the Canadian Shield ( FIG. 1). In light
will arise in the future. In consultation with all of this apparent abundance of water, it is
levels of government and key stakeholders, not overly surprising that Canadians use an
Canada should develop a comprehensive enormous amount of water in comparison to
national water policy that reflects the values other nations. The per-capita use of water by
of Canadians and has precedence over Canadians (including agricultural, industrial
and domestic sectors) is second only to that Canadian landscape is marked by numerous
of the United States, and at least double depressions (created by several historical
that of European countries (Boyd, 2001). advancements and retreats of glaciers) that
Unfortunately, however, this perception of can hold water and form lakes, as well as
plenty is largely unfounded. The data show on account of the relatively low degree of
that Canada ranks a distant third, behind evaporation and transpiration in this colder
Brazil and the Russian Federation, in total region of the world. Thus, while Canada may
renewable water resources, at 6.5% of the have a fairly large ‘bank account’ of available
global total (Sprague, 2007). Moreover, most freshwater, it has a very low ‘interest rate’ in
of this water is located in the Arctic, or drains terms of the capacity of its waters to replenish
out through northern rivers, and is, therefore, themselves – and if its expenditure of water
in practice unavailable for immediate use to exceeds the available ‘interest’, Canada
most Canadians (except for that utilized by will not be able to sustain its water ‘capital’
hydroelectric generation systems, discussed (Schindler, 2007). In fact, there currently exists
in Section 4.6). In practice, counting only a high threat to water availability in Alberta,
the renewable supplies in southern Canada, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (Section 4.2),
where 85% of the population is located, the Great Lakes region of south-western
Canada has about 2.6% of the world’s supply, Ontario (Section 4.5), and regions dependent
and this region of Canada is in fact significantly upon groundwater in many parts of Canada
drier than the US average (Sprague, 2007; (Section 5.1). Moreover, the escalating oil
Schindler, 2007). Furthermore, Canada sands developments in Alberta are increasing
actually receives the same average amount water demand and threatening water quality
of precipitation per square metre as do many in that region (Section 4.3).
other countries.
FIG. 1 displays a map of Canada showing its
The reason why Canada seems to possess a political divisions along with many of its lakes
wealth of freshwater is due to the fact that the and rivers, some of which are discussed later
in this report. Labels circled on the left and
linked to locations on the map are referred
to in upcoming sections. The land area of
Canada is approximately 10 million km2,
which makes Canada the second largest
nation in the world next to the Russian
Federation. As can be seen on this map,
Northern Canada consists of Nunavut, the
Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory.
The southern part of Canada contains the ten
provinces of Canada, most of which border
the United States of America (USA). Going
FIG .1. Map of Canada with Areas Discussed Indicated
(NRCan, 2002) from west to east, these provinces comprise
British Columbia; Alberta, Saskatchewan is nothing in Canada to compare with the
and Manitoba (Prairie Provinces); Ontario; impending disaster of the Ogallala Aquifer
Quebec; and New Brunswick, Prince Edward in the USA — a vast groundwater reserve
Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland underlying the western Prairie states that will
and Labrador (Atlantic Canada). Canada’s soon be “mined” to exhaustion (Reisner, 1993;
industrial heartland is situated in Southern de Villiers, 2003) — several serious problems
Ontario and Southern Quebec, while the with groundwater use have occurred or
“bread basket” of Canada is the Canadian may be impending in Canada. Such water-
Prairies where huge quantities of wheat and related issues include the Walkerton tragedy
other grains are grown, in a region that often in 2000, in which seven people died and
suffers from drought. Canada possesses more than 2,300 became seriously ill when a
huge reserves of a rich variety of natural groundwater well was contaminated by E. coli
resources located throughout the country bacteria in the town of Walkerton, Ontario
including the massive oil sands of Alberta and due to water treatment mismanagement and
Saskatchewan which require huge amounts of inadequate regulation (Section 5.1); the more
water to recover the hydrocarbon products as than 1,760 municipal and 93 First-Nations
described later in Section 4.3. boil-water advisories in force across Canada
(as of February 2008) (Eggertson, 2008),
As can be viewed in FIG. 1, the spatial and actual or potential serious groundwater
distribution of the surface water is not pollution problems associated with gas
equable across the country. The North and and oil development (Section 4.3), landfills,
much of the Prairies are quite arid, with near- brownfields (Section 5.3), and industrial
desert conditions in the high Arctic. The chemical spills and dumps. It is estimated that
southern coastal areas, particularly along the only about 3% of groundwater is active in the
Pacific Ocean, are very wet, while the regions hydrological cycle (FIG. 3, Section 3.3) on an
bordering the St. Lawrence River and Great annual basis, and only 1% of the water in the
Lakes, much of the Atlantic Provinces, and the Great Lakes is recycled annually. Exploitation
Rocky Mountains in the west enjoy ample, but of groundwater at a rate that exceeds these
not excessive, precipitation. Consequently, percentages is unsustainable in the long
any consideration of water resources in term. The CCA (2009) report states “Canada
Canada will often have a prominent regional has not yet experienced widespread over-
dimension (CCA, 2009), as confirmed by the usage of groundwater. There have been
topics in Section 4. individual cases where severe local problems
have arisen, but this has not yet occurred on a
Nearly 30% of Canada’s population (almost ten national scale”. Due to the great importance
million Canadians) depends on groundwater of groundwater in Canada, this topic is further
to supply its drinking water, and more than investigated in Section 5.1.
80% of the country’s rural population relies
on groundwater for its entire water supply In 1863, John Palliser described the Canadian
(Environment Canada, 2004). Although there Plains as “by no means a desirable district for
settlement” with large areas that “will forever Adelaide (2008) and Quebec City (2010), also
be comparatively useless”. “By chance, the furnished background information. Articles
arrival of settlers to the prairies just over 100 presented at the 2010 Annual Conference of
years ago coincided with a shift to wetter the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada
climate conditions – a remarkable coincidence held at McGill University on March 25th
that allowed Canada’s agricultural heartland and 26th on the topic of “Canadian Water:
to be developed. However, research on the Towards a New Strategy,” papers from annual
Canadian prairies has shown that the region has conferences of the Canadian Water Resources
experienced repeated and more prolonged Association, refereed articles from journals
droughts over the past few thousand years such as the Canadian Water Resource Journal,
than those of the 20th century. Now with the and information from valuable websites
development of large urban centres, extensive presented in Section 7, constitute other
agriculture, and industrial growth, there is great sources from which the authors obtained
consternation over water supply, particularly valuable background material.
due to concerns over potential impacts of
climate change on both water supply and As a result of Canada’s sheer physical size
demand.” (Grasby, 2008) (Section 5.5). containing many kinds of geographical
regions and climate zones, some of Canada’s
Because of the immense importance of water strategic water problems are regional rather
resources in Canada as well as virtually every than being common difficulties occurring in
nation around the globe, the Academy of many parts of the country. Accordingly, in
Science, within the Royal Society of Canada, Section 4 pressing regional water problems
hosted the conference entitled “Water in in Canada are addressed, starting in the west
Canada and the World: Rising Tensions in the and moving eastwards. Within Section 5, the
21st Century: Issues and Solutions”. This timely authors tackle water problems that affect
conference was held at the Canada Science many regions of the country. Most importantly,
and Technology Museum in Ottawa, Canada’s within Section 6, recommendations are put
capital city, on November 17th, 2006. The forward for enhancing water governance
presentations and discussions at this conference, in Canada with respect to the regional and
the viewpoints of researchers and practitioners national water problems in Canada discussed
throughout Canada, and the authors’ expertise in Sections 4 and 5, respectively, as well
with respect to water, form the basis for much of as other water issues not mentioned in
the contents of this report regarding a strategic these sections. Firstly, however, the current
viewpoint of water resources in Canada. governance systems within Canada and its
Research material from an ongoing sequence neighbour to the south are presented next.
of conferences called International Conference
on Environment and Water Research (ICWRER), 3. Water Governance within
first held at the University of Waterloo in 1993 Canada and Internationally
with subsequent conferences held in Kyoto Canada requires a comprehensive national
(1996), Brisbane (1999), Dresden (2002), water policy, as pointed out in Section
3.1, although since its inception in 1867 (Upper Canada), Quebec (Lower Canada),
Canada has made noteworthy advances Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Today,
in the management of its enormous water Canada consists of ten provinces, Nunavut,
resources in cooperation with its provincial the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, as
and territorial governments. Internationally, depicted in FIG. 1. The Constitution Act of
Canada and the USA cooperatively manage 1867, formerly called the British North America
their many shared water basins in a fair and Act, forms the foundations upon which the
effective manner via the International Joint constitution has been expanded or modified
Commission which implements the policies on many occasions since the confederation of
of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, as the four former British colonies to establish
explained in Section 3.2. Water basins within Canada. The Constitution Act specifies how
Canada and those shared with its friendly responsibilities are shared among the three
southern neighbor along the border with the levels of government in Canada: federal,
USA, are generally well-governed following provincial or territorial and municipal. At
the principles of integrative management the federal level, the Parliament of Canada
under stakeholder participation (Section consists of a House of Commons (Members
6.2), as discussed in Sections 3.2 and 3.3, of Parliament are elected. The leader of
respectively. To overcome inherent weakness the political party holding the most seats
in federal water legislation regarding water is usually the Prime Minister) and a Senate
quantity and quality issues, the Canadian (Senators are appointed). Under Article VI in
Council of Ministers of the Environment the Constitution, Distribution of Legislative
tackles specific water and other environmental Powers, the federal government controls the
problems of national interest, as mentioned regulation of trade and commerce (Section
in Section 3.4. However, Canada’s obligations 91.2), navigation and shipping (Section 91.10),
to abide by the trade agreements within sea coast and inland fisheries (Section 91.12)
the World Trade Organization (WTO) and and proprietary interest of certain northern
the North American Free Trade Agreement waters (Shrybman, 2000).
(NAFTA) threaten Canada’s sovereignty
over its natural resources, such as water and Under Article VI in the Constitution Act,
energy, and its environmental stewardship of the provincial legislatures possess primary
its vast ecosystems as dictated in its national, responsibility for most natural resources,
provincial and local laws and regulations. public lands and property (Section 92.5).
The ongoing conflict over water and trade is Although water is not explicitly mentioned
outlined in Section 3.5 while the looming peril in the Act, in law water is categorized as
of the exportation of Canadian water in vast property and land is understood to include
quantities is addressed in Section 4.7. water. Accordingly, the provinces own their
water resources, including both surface
3.1 Legal Structure Water in Canada and groundwater, and are responsible for
The Dominion of Canada was created on flow regulation, authorizing water use and
July 1, 1867 and initially consisted of Ontario development, as well as granting authority
to legislate areas of water supply, pollution and legislation passed in 1970 included the
control, and thermal and hydroelectric power Canada Water Act, Arctic Water Pollution Act,
development. Additionally, the provinces Northern Inland Water Act and amendments
have taken the primary responsibility for to the Canada Shipping Act and Fisheries Act.
managing water via passing water laws, Canadians were clearly concerned with many
licensing water use and waste discharge, and issues related to water such as water supply,
delegating powers to local municipalities and spread of water contaminants, pollution
basin conservation authorities which carry control, flood damage reduction, drought
out important implementation roles in water and heritage river protection. They came to
management. Nonetheless, the division envision water as not just a commodity but
between federal and provincial jurisdictions is as a fundamental element of the environment
not always clear, or is contradictory, as in the and Canadian culture.
case of water exports discussed in Section
4.7. An additional legal complication within The federal government’s contributions to
Canada is that water law in Quebec is derived water policy reached its apex in 1987, with
from Quebec Civil Code, which has its roots in the issuance of the Federal Water Policy,
Code Napoleon, whereas water laws in other which was based on the 1985 Pearce report.
Canadian provinces fall within civil law based This relatively insightful and encompassing
upon Common Law from the United Kingdom. policy was designed “... to encourage the
use of freshwater in an efficient and equitable
Because water often crosses or overlaps manner consistent with the social, economic
with jurisdictional boundaries within and environmental needs of present and
Canada and also with the United States, future generations”. Unfortunately, the
the federal government is often involved Federal Water Policy was tabled in the House
with intergovernmental accommodation of Commons and never became law. Instead,
and cooperation (Pearse, 1998). After issues related to water were absorbed within
confederation in 1867, the federal the Canada Environment Act of 1989, and the
government assumed responsibility for key ruling Conservative government focused on
water projects, such as large dams and flood negotiating the 1989 Canada-USA Free Trade
control works, and for serving the nation’s Agreement. Currently, Canada still does not
interests, like encouraging commerce and possess an encompassing national water act
settling the west (Sections 3.2. and 3.3 for the and a key recommendation in Section 6.1 is
case of bilateral cooperation with the United that Canada develop one.
States). In 1966, a water administration
was established in the new Department of Under the existing Environmental Protection
Energy, Mines and Resources, for which the Act, the Fisheries Act and the Canada Water
freshwater component later became the Act, the federal government has overriding
Inland Waters Directorate. Subsequently, responsibility for the health of inland fisheries,
an Interdepartmental Committee on Water the transmission and deposition of deleterious
was founded to coordinate water programs, substances and the mandate to monitor the
status of the nation’s freshwater. The federal criteria. The first general codification of the
government also oversees transboundary laws pertaining to international watercourses
waters, water for aboriginal communities, and was the Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the
water on federal lands such as national parks Waters of International Rivers, which was
and Department of National Defence lands. adopted by the International Law Association
in 1966. Although the Helsinki Rules
Federally-supported research studies are guideline was not legally binding, it soon
continuing. In 2004 Environment Canada received global acceptance as customary
published a collection of studies of international law and was an important
municipal, agricultural and industrial uses influence on the water agreements of many
of water (Environment Canada, 2004), and organizations and countries until the creation
in 2009 an Expert Panel of the Council of of the United Nations’ Convention on the Law
Canadian Academies published their study of Non-Navigational Uses of International
on groundwater in Canada (CCA, 2009) Watercourses in 1997. It was superseded by
(Section 5.1). the Berlin Rules on Water Resources in 2004
(Salmon, 2007).
3.2 Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909
Globally, there are 261 international river On January 11, 1909, the USA and Great
basins draining a total area equal to half of the Britain, on behalf of the Dominion of
land mass in the world (Wolf, 2010) and about Canada, signed the Boundary Waters Treaty,
40% of the world’s populations live in water which has proven to be over time a highly
basins shared by two or more nations (Global successful bilateral treaty to prevent and
Water Partnership, 2009, p. 55). Many people resolve transboundary disputes regarding
believe that nations competing for control water and the environment and, therefore,
of scarce water resources may ignite warfare provides an ideal model for countries to
among countries in the future (Gleick, 1993), emulate. FIG. 2, displays the many water
although some authors think that conflict basins overlapping the Canada/USA border,
over water may be a reason for cooperation spanning almost 9,000 km. The fundamental
and peace (Wolf, 2002). Accordingly, to reason why this treaty has worked so well in
protect and conserve limited water resources resolving conflicts arising in the numerous
and to avoid possible international conflict international river basins shared by these
over transboundary water resources, an two nations is that the treaty has been
increasing number of international water purposefully designed to reflect the values
policies are being put into effect (Dellapenna, of the stakeholders in a fair and transparent
2001). Currently, over 3,600 bilateral and way by “hard-wiring” appropriate provisions
multilateral international agreements have into the treaty. Specifically, to implement its
been signed around the globe (Vinogradov mandates and to make it fully operational,
et al., 2003), of which four important treaties the treaty created the International Joint
are compared by Ma et al. (2007) to assess Commission (IJC), an independent binational
their effectiveness according to meaningful body having investigative, regulatory and
adjudicative roles. The IJC is comprised of six When investigating a problem, such as
members – three Commissioners appointed the proposed Garrison Diversion Unit
by the President of the United States, with irrigation project mentioned in Section 4.4
advice and approval of the Senate and an (IJC, 1977) and the fluctuating water levels
opportunity for congressional oversight of of the Great Lakes (Levels Reference Study
the appointment, and three by the Governor Board, 1993; Yin et al., 1999; Rajabi et al.,
in Council of Canada, with input from the 2001; IJC, 2009a) (Section 4.5), the IJC calls
Prime Minister but no additional oversight. upon the best experts from both countries
Accordingly, the citizens of both countries to carry out extensive background
have equal representation on the IJC, with studies to come up with impartial
a Commissioner from each country serving recommendations for settling the dispute.
concurrently as co-chairs. Most importantly, Since its inception, the IJC has executed
the six Commissioners must act impartially numerous reference studies, including one
in reviewing problems and deciding on dealing with water exports (IJC, 2000)
issues, rather than representing the views (Section 4.7) and another addressing
of their respective governments. In other the management of international basins
words, the IJC does what is best overall for following an integrative and adaptive
the citizens of both countries, rather than approach (IJC, 2009b) (Section 6.2). In its
acting in the interests of corporations, which regulatory capacity, the IJC gives approval
is the case for the North American Free for the construction and operation of water
Trade Agreement discussed in Section 3.5. works that may affect the levels or flows
As a dispute resolution mechanism, the IJC at the international boundary. Over its
seeks win/win resolutions. The IJC can make history, the IJC has established 30 boards,
recommendations on an issue or reference task forces and study boards to manage
put forward by either country, although in transboundary waters such as the Great
practice it only acts when both countries Lakes Water Quality Board discussed in
request an investigation. Section 4.5.

FIG. 2. Water Basins Overlapping Canada/USA Border (Environment Canada, 2011)

Two Canadian provinces (Ontario and
Quebec) along with eight American states
share the Great Lakes Basin. In December
2005, these political entities signed the
Great Lakes Charter Annex Agreement,
which considerably strengthens conservation
measures, and provides stronger protection
against proposals for water diversions from the
Great Lakes Basin. This agreement and other
related versions thereof are discussed in the
introduction to Section 4 and in Section 4.5.
FIG. 3. Hydrological Cycle (Eagleson, 1970; Hipel
3.3 Water Governance at the Basin Level and McLeod, 1993)
The continuous movement of water in all of Fortunately, governmental bodies across
its forms in the atmosphere, on the surface Canada now recognize the importance
of the land and underground is referred to as of having water governance at the basin
the hydrological or water cycle. The systems level, even if a basin crosses international
diagram of the hydrological cycle depicted boundaries as shown in FIG. 2 for the
in FIG. 3, was first envisioned during the case of Canada and the United States, or
Renaissance by Leonardo da Vinci and intersects with jurisdictional boundaries at
constitutes the first accurate description the provincial or lower levels. In Canada, the
of a key environmental system (Hipel and first watershed management agency was
McLeod, 1994, and references contained the Grand River Conservation Commission
therein). When precipitation falls on a which was established by an act of the
land surface, water on or near the surface Provincial Government of Ontario in 1932
naturally follows the contours of the land to to address flooding, drought and pollution
flow downhill first as small streams, which in problems caused by land-use changes made
turn amalgamate to create larger rivers and in the highly-developed Grand River Basin
lakes. A river basin or watershed, which can of Southern Ontario depicted in FIG. 4. The
consist of one or more smaller basins, forms success of the Commission led to the passing
an important component of the overall of the Conservation Authorities Act of Ontario
hydrological cycle drawn in FIG. 3 and, in 1946, and the creation of 36 conservation
therefore, provides a natural geographical authorities in Ontario within which all of its 12
unit within which water governance can be million citizens live. The original Grand River
effectively implemented for managing both Conservation Commission has evolved into
water quantity and quality issues (Bruce and what became the Grand River Conservation
Mitchell, 1995). An integrative and adaptive Authority (GRCA) in 1966. In fact, the GRCA
approach to water governance within a has been so successful in executing its mandate
system of systems framework is presented in that in 1994 the Grand River, which flows about
Section 6.2. 300 km from the highlands of Dufferin County
in the north of the basin to Lake Erie in the managing a river basin. Firstly, a Conservation
south, was classified as a Canadian Heritage Authority is a local initiative since residents
River. In 2000, the GRCA was awarded the must request the Ontario government to
International Riverprize in Brisbane, Australia, form an Authority under the act, share in
for excellence in river management. its financing and assume the responsibility
of running it, similar to what is done for a
Enlightened governance is a direct result of municipality. In this way, citizens living in the
sound design. In particular, the Conservation watershed are empowered as stakeholders
Authorities Act contains three fundamental through the Authority to undertake projects
concepts to bring about desired performance involving water which they can handle
of a given Conservation Authority for economically, culturally and democratically.

Secondly, the costs of projects are shared by

municipalities and the provincial government
which means that an Authority will only
succeed when the local residents are willing
to support it financially. Thirdly, a conservation
authority possesses watershed jurisdiction
over the one or more river basins under its
control, which gives it the ability to handle
problems such as flood control, reforestation,
low flow augmentation, recreation and other
responsibilities it chooses to undertake in a
responsible, rational and systematic manner.
Besides Ontario, other provinces have
implemented innovative water governance
at the water basin level. For instance, as
is also pointed out in Section 6.1, Quebec
established effective watershed-based
management throughout the province via the
Quebec Water Policy of 2002 (Government
of Quebec, 2002). The foregoing type
of insightful water governance within a
watershed stands in sharp contrast to the
lack of leadership at the national level in
terms of having a proper national water
policy. This lack of national guidance may be
partially due to the fact that the power to
manage water resources rests largely with the
FIG. 4. Grand River Basin in Southern Ontario, Canada
(GRCA, 2001, 2010, 2011; Environment Canada, 2010) provinces except at international boundaries
(Section 3.2), in aboriginal communities, and be sought via the formation of an advisory
on federal properties (Section 3.). In lieu committee. Examples of work completed
of this, the provinces have put together a by CCME are the Canada-Wide Acid Rain
mechanism for cooperating on addressing Strategy, from a broad perspective, and the
specific environmental issues as described in Code of Practice for Petroleum Storages
the next subsection. Tanks, for a specific technical problem.

3.4 Canadian Council of As an illustrative example of a problem

Ministers of the Environment addressed by the CCME, consider the lack
As explained in Section 3.1, the Canadian of consistency with respect to wastewater
federation-based government system places effluent quality between provinces which can
control over natural resources such as water result in conflict. In an effort to harmonize
under the shared jurisdiction of both provincial policy in this area, on February 17, 2009,
and federal governments. The exceptions 13 of the 14 governments agreed on the
where federal jurisdiction prevails include “Canada-wide Strategy for the Management
waters crossing international boundaries of Municipal Wastewater Effluent”, which
(Section 3.2), water on federal properties and sets National Performance Standards
First Nations’ lands, and where water flows (CCME, 2009). (Note: Quebec has not
between two or more provinces. Partially endorsed the Accord or the Canada-wide
as the result of a lack of a national water environmental standards.) The objectives of
policy, the Canadian Council of Ministers the harmonization process are the delivery
of the Environment (CCME) was formed to of a regulatory strategy that enhances
tackle environmental problems of national public and environmental health protection,
concern such as those involving water. The promotes sustainable development and
membership of the CCME consists of the achieves better overall management of
14 environment ministers from the federal, municipal wastewater. The Accord also has
provincial and territorial governments, who the objective of preventing overlapping of
meet at least once per year to confer over activities and inter-jurisdictional disputes;
environmental priorities for Canada and reviewing and adjusting management regimes
decide upon tasks to be executed under the to accommodate needs; delineating the
auspices of CCME. roles of governmental units; and developing
consistent approaches on issues. A total of
When the Environmental Ministers select a 13 principles were defined to ensure a more
specific environmental issue to address, senior consistent approach to effluent management
officials establish working groups of experts by all jurisdictions.
from the federal, provincial and territorial The initial Performance Standards specify
ministries to accomplish the required tasks maximum values for carbonaceous
with the support of a permanent secretariat. biochemical oxygen demand using the five
When needed, expertise from elsewhere, day test (cBOD5) of 25 mg/L, total suspended
such as academia and the private sector, will solids (TSS) of 25 mg/L and total residual
chlorine (TRC) of 0.02 mg/L. In addition, the direct result of industrial, agricultural and
effluent should not be toxic. Although these other human activities connected to trade,
values do not represent the performance these trading agreements clearly have to be
expected from state of the practice and do replaced or radically updated to respond
not even approach the state of the art, they to the massive environmental crisis facing
represent a substantial step in the process humanity, including problems associated with
of harmonization of national, provincial and the decreasing quantity and quality of fresh
territorial activities in pollution reduction. In water. A recommendation regarding trade
fact, a more concentrated effort has been agreements is put forward in Section 6.3.1
made in the Province of Alberta towards the because of the close connection between
development of a regulatory framework for water and trade. In fact, as mentioned earlier
managing cumulative environmental effects in Section 3.2, as water becomes scarcer in
(Alberta Environment, 2007). Recognizing a world still undergoing huge population
that all activities in every watershed impact in expansions, many authors predict that there
some fashion the quality of the environment will be water wars (Dyer, 2008), although Wolf
and particularly the water, it is imperative (2002) believes that water forms a focus for
that the cumulative impacts become a focus cooperation between nations and cultural
of management efforts. Achieving working groups. Whatever the case, the increasing
relationships among all users in a watershed relative scarcity of fresh water is bound to
can be a formidable but necessary task. breed more and more conflict which hopefully
will be resolved in a cooperative fashion
3.5 Conflict over Water and Trade rather than by outright hostility. Nonetheless,
As explained below, Canada’s international if responsible action is not taken soon, trade
trade takes place within the umbrella of and the environment are on a collision course
agreements falling under two major, and closely (Hipel and Obeidi, 2005).
connected, sets of agreements: the array of
agreements sponsored by the World Trade Since the end of World War II, great strides have
Organization (WTO) and the North American been taken to encourage free trade among
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Unfortunately, nations according to fair trading rules within a
Canada’s valuable water resources are not global marketplace. The General Agreement
protected under WTO agreements or NAFTA, on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was established
as was falsely claimed by the initial proponents in 1947, and has been subsequently
of NAFTA. In reality, these two collections of amended by several agreements. GATT was
trade agreements deal solely with bottom- established as part of the post-war Bretton
line economics and so-called fair trade issues Woods Agreements that also created the
with little regard for environmental conditions, World Bank and the International Monetary
human rights, labor laws and other societal Fund. As the finale of the Uruguay Round of
considerations. Moreover, given the fact Negotiations, which started in September
that ecosystems are in rapid decline around 1986, the Marrakesh Agreement was signed
the globe and the climate is warming as a in Morocco in April 1994 to establish the
World Trade Organization (WTO), which agreement on the environment or water is
officially came into operation on January 1, in place. However, a few successful treaties
1995. The WTO has a range of agreements, regarding the environment have been
including the latest version of GATT and a accomplished in specific areas, including the
dispute resolution procedure, to encourage Law of the Sea (Division of Ocean Affairs,
free trade around the globe. 1997) and the 1987 Montreal Protocol on
Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
The North American Free Trade Agreement (UNEP, 2003). As explained in Section 3.2,
among Canada, Mexico and the USA came within North America, the Boundary Waters
into operation on January 1, 1994, and Treaty of 1909 between Canada and the
constitutes an expansion of the earlier USA constitutes an exemplary and long-
Canada-USA Free Trade Agreement of 1988. tested illustration of a successful bilateral
One of the supplements to NAFTA is the treaty which deals with water quantity and
North American Agreement on Environmental quality problems as well as air pollution.
Cooperation (NAAEC) which, unfortunately, Nevertheless, most global environmental
only obligates the three countries to enforce initiatives have not materialized at the
their own environmental laws rather than international level: the nations of the world
having strict environmental regulations across did not adhere to the Kyoto Protocol for
nations as is done in Europe. Currently, reducing greenhouse gasses and did not
countries of North and South America are develop a program for reducing emissions
putting together an agreement called Free at the Copenhagen meeting of December,
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which 2009. Although Canada currently does
is planned to eventually replace NAFTA. not have a national water policy (Section
Another organization that deals solely 3.1), it is attempting to have some national
with trade issues from the perspective of consistency in its environmental standards
big business is the Security and Prosperity via the Canadian Council of Ministers of the
Partnership (SPP) of North America which was Environment (Section 3.4).
signed on March 23, 2005 by the leaders of
Canada, Mexico and the USA. In fact, the SPP A major problem with international economic
was initiated by the Canadian Council of Chief agreements is that the underlying value
Executives which feared border disruptions system or objectives written into these
with the USA because of its War on Terror. treaties may be in direct conflict with the
value systems of environmental and water
NAFTA and the economic agreements falling laws in Canada and most other nations.
under the WTO are fully operational and Consider, for instance, the case with respect
are largely being adhered to by member to NAFTA. Under Chapter 11, corporations
states. Unfortunately, this is not the situation or individuals can sue Canada, Mexico or the
with regards to transnational environmental USA for compensation when actions taken
treaties and at the present time no really by those governments adversely affect their
comprehensive and binding international investments. Hence, as explained in Section
4.7, an American company is suing the Nonetheless, if a case over water exports were
Canadian government for not permitting it to taken to the international court in The Hague,
export water in bulk quantities, as was earlier it is not clear which side would win. Other
permitted by a provincial government before concerns over the exploitation of water are
revoking the company’s license, even though furnished by authors such as Sandford (2009),
large-scale removal of water could cause Barlow (2007), Barlow and Clarke (2002), de
serious ecological damage. Villiers (2003), Dellapenna (2001) and Wolf
(1998). Canadian and European officials are
Accordingly, opponents of NAFTA argue negotiating a new trade agreement, called
that this international agreement permits the Canada-European Union Comprehensive
corporations to override Canadian federal Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Similar
and provincial environmental, social, cultural to NAFTA, CETA would give the interests of
and economic laws, and thereby pose a European corporations precedence over the
threat to Canada’s sovereignty and the rights rules and standards of Canadian provinces
of individual Canadians. McMurty (2002, pp. and municipalities (Barlow, 2011). This would
112-113) points out that the WTO agreements potentially have many serious consequences
and NAFTA have binding regulations on for Canada, including the privatization of its
the rights of transnational investors and public water systems (Canadian Union of Public
corporations but there is not a single binding Employees and Council of Canadians, 2010).
article with respect to the protection of the
environment, human rights and labour. Hipel Because current international economic
and Obeidi (2005) explain the value systems agreements only deal with the economic
of the proponents of free trade and those of aspects of trade among nations, the integrity
environmental stewardship in the ongoing of both the quantity and quality of water in
conflict over trade versus the environment Canada’s river basins are under constant
and provide numerous references presenting threat, even though responsible water
the positions taken by both sides. Moreover, governance may be taking place at the basin
according to the proportionality principle in level (Section 3.3) and other jurisdictions
NAFTA, once water exports are permitted within Canada (Sections 3.1 and 3.4), as well
they cannot be stopped since the country as river basins straddling the border between
supplying the water cannot reduce the Canada and the United States (Section 3.2).
relative quantity of water exported to the With respect to the systems diagram called
receiving country. As mentioned in Section the hydrologic cycle in FIG. 3, this means
4.7, in response to public outcry in the USA that Canada’s water resources could be
and Canada over proposed bulk water damaged at the basin level if appropriate
exports, the International Joint Commission legal protection is not provided. Additionally,
(Section 3.2) recommended in a 2000 study climate change, which many scientists
that no boundary waters be exported in believe to be exacerbated by the continuing
bulk unless it can be definitely proven that release of enormous amounts of greenhouse
the ecology will not be harmed (IJC, 2000). gases due to the widespread utilization of
hydrocarbons as the key energy provider in Saskatchewan is the quickly increasing
for the ever-expanding economic engine, demand for water needed for extracting
can affect all parts of the hydrological cycle. and processing bitumen mined from the vast
Therefore, three recommendations are put oil sands reserves (FIG. 6), as explained in
forward in Section 6.3.2: one encourages Section 4.3. A new threat to surface water
Canada to negotiate an international supplies is the emerging shale gas industry,
economic agreement that prioritizes the which is already leading to significant water
maintenance of a healthy environment, withdrawals from river systems in the Horn
societal welfare and the rights of individuals River Basin of northeastern British Columbia.
within a sustainable development structure; Current water withdrawal licenses there
another proposes that Canada negotiate an permit removal of water in volumes up to
effective greenhouse gas emissions treaty 275,000 m3 (Parfitt, 2010, p. 26). This industry
to lessen the likelihood that the entire also has implications for groundwater use, as
hydrological cycle in FIG. 3 becomes severely discussed in Section 5.1.
and irreversibly damaged due to global
warming and climate change (see comments The Red River Basin of Manitoba and North
under Recommendation 9 in Section 6.3.2), Dakota ( FIG. 9), as well as downstream lakes
and a third suggests that Canada participate and rivers like Lake Winnipeg, are under direct
in drawing up a comprehensive international threat of projects in the USA such as intense
treaty for freshwater. agricultural activities and the draining of
the highly polluted inland lake, called Devils
4. Strategic Regional Water Lake in North Dakota, which empties via
Problems in Canada the Sheyenne River into the Red River which
As explained in Section 1 and shown in the flows northwards into Canada. A nasty brew
map of Canada in FIG. 1, Canada is the of pollutants and foreign biota from North
second largest nation in the world with a Dakota could have devastating environmental
surface area of ten million square kilometers consequences in Canada, as discussed in
spanning many climate and geological Section 4.4, while spring flooding in the Red
regions as well as containing a rich range of River Basin will continue to wreak havoc (FIG.
ecosystems. Accordingly, many of Canada’s 10.), as has recently happened in 1997, 2009
strategic water problems are contained and 2011. Fortunately, the City of Winnipeg
within specific regions in Canada. Going has constructed a highly effective floodway
from west to east, particular water problems system for channeling floodwaters from the
in Canada start with the melting glaciers of Red River and its tributaries around the city
the Rocky Mountains of Western Canada (FIG. 10), but other areas can be flooded.
discussed in Section 4.1. The melting of
these glaciers is exacerbating drought The governance of the Great Lakes (FIG. 11),
conditions in the Prairie Provinces (FIG. 5), addressed in Section 4.5 in terms of both
as mentioned in Section 4.2. A further drain water quality and fluctuating lake levels is well
of water resources in Alberta and somewhat executed as a direct result of the outstanding
policies of the International Joint Commission (CCME, 2010). Around 200,000 km2, or 2%, of
(Section 3.2) as well as the eight American Canada’s surface area is covered by glaciers
states and two Canadian provinces with which and icefields (NRCan, 2009), which comprise
the Great Lakes Basin overlaps. the equivalent amount of water of all the
lakes and rivers in the country (NRCan, 2010).
Although hydroelectric power is generated These glaciers and icefields are situated in the
from differences in elevation at many lakes Western Cordillera region, which stretches
and rivers across Canada, the massive across British Columbia and the western edge
James Bay project of northern Quebec (FIG. of Alberta, and in the eastern Arctic. The
12) and the Churchill Falls in Labrador are importance of glaciers for water is that they act
particularly noteworthy. The conflict over as natural water towers, storing up water in the
these projects with First Nations peoples as form of ice during winter and then releasing
well as the dispute between the government it as the ice is melted by the sun’s heat, thus
of Quebec and the government of Labrador supplementing river flows throughout the
and Newfoundland over the sale of Churchill summer months (NRCan, 2001). These rivers are
power to Quebec Hydro at an extremely low relied upon for such applications as municipal
rate are discussed in Section 4.6. Finally, the water supplies, irrigation, hydroelectric power
ongoing debate over the potential sale of generation and fisheries (CCME, 2010). The
Canadian water in bulk quantities is put into loss of glacial ice is thus an important water
perspective in Section 4.7. resource issue for Canada. As the availability of
water is of special concern for the relatively dry
People living in the dry areas of the Prairie Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and
southwest USA and other arid regions of Manitoba) (Section 4.2) this section focuses on
the world have speculated about importing the effect of glacial decline on the Prairies.
enormous quantities water from Canada
(FIG. 1), especially from what is incorrectly Most of the world’s alpine glaciers are in
perceived to be infinite reserves of fresh retreat. There was a 12% decrease in glacier
water from the Great Lakes ( FIG. 11). In fact, size worldwide during the twentieth century,
large quantities of water are already being according to the World Resources Institute
exported within and outside of Canada (CCME, 2010). Studies show that this trend
as bottled and virtual water, as explained started about 1800 AD, although some Swiss
in Section 5.4. It was an awareness of the glaciers went on expanding until about 1860.
potential threats to the Great Lakes from The retreat is usually attributed to global
drier areas of the continent that led to the warming, but it should be noted that glaciers
signing of the Charter Annex Agreement in have demonstrated a complex history of
2005, as noted at the end of Section 3.1. advance and retreat since the last Ice Age. The
evidence indicates that alpine ice was entirely
4.1 Melting Glaciers absent during the post-glacial Holocene
The amount of glacial ice in Canada is surpassed maximum, from about 7,000 to 4,000 years
only by that of Antarctica and Greenland ago, with forest cover extending to at least
2,600 m above sea level. The current phase of The Bow Glacier in Banff National Park,
retreat follows a brief period of glacial advance Alberta, is an important glacier in the Rocky
during the “Little Ice Age” that peaked in the Mountains that is shrinking at a rapid rate.
mid-seventeenth century (Rutter et al., 2006). During summer months, this glacier is a
There are over 1300 glaciers along the eastern significant water source for the Bow River,
slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which supplies the City of Calgary’s drinking
which stretch across and beyond the western water. The Bow Glacier has been reduced
edge of the Prairie Provinces (FIG. 5, Section by 27% within the past 60 years and it could
4.2) and along the eastern side of British vanish entirely in 40 years (Ma, 2006). Another
Columbia. These glaciers are a key source significant glacier in Banff National Park that is
of water for rivers in the Prairie Provinces, endangered is the Peyto Glacier. Researchers
discharging millions of cubic metres of water began measuring this glacier in the early 1980s
eastward across the Prairies (CBC News, and found 20 years later that it had lost 70%
2003). The snow pack in the Rocky Mountains of its mass, its height having been reduced
performs a similar function to glaciers, building by the equivalent of a five-storey building.
up over the winter and then releasing water They also discovered that its rate of melting
to rivers as it is melted by warmer weather, is increasing (CBC News, 2003). On account
providing most of the streamflow runoff (Lapp of the shrinking of Rocky Mountains glaciers
et al., 2005). such as these ones, river flows in the Prairies
have been reduced by as much as 25% (CBC
As demonstrated by Schindler and Donahue News, 2003). The diminishment of the Rocky
(2006), however, the diminishing alpine snow Mountains snow packs and glaciers, however,
pack in the Rocky Mountains means the spring is not as severe a problem as it could be, as
melt tapers off into the summer, delivering less dams have been constructed that can hold a
water to the Prairies during the late summer. great deal of springtime flow and gradually
Leung and Ghan (1999) predict an average release it as needed through the summer.
snow cover reduction in this region of up to
50% in the event of a doubling of atmospheric The disappearance of glaciers is also a
CO2 levels. Currently, glacial melt continues major concern for British Columbia. Most
to deliver water to Prairie river systems of the glaciers in the southern region of the
throughout the summer but this resource is province have diminished considerably since
now shrinking rapidly. These glaciers have the 1920s, although glaciers in the north-west
diminished by 25 to 75% since 1850 (CCME, have expanded on account of heavy snowfall
2010) and are approaching the lowest levels (Bruce et al., 2000). A climate change expert
they have been in 10,000 years (NRCan, 2007). in British Columbia has predicted that the
Although the shrinking of the higher elevation majority of the glaciers within that province
icefields may be offset by increased snowfall will be lost within 150 years (Lupick, 2008).
according to certain climate models, the Another study determined that glaciers in the
lower lying glaciers are expected to continue northern hemisphere would undergo a 60%
declining rapidly (Parks Canada, 2003). overall reduction in volume if average global
temperature increases by 3°C (Canadian
Geographic, 2010a). When Western Canada’s
glaciers disappear, it will be faced with a major
water crisis (Ma, 2006), especially the Prairie
Provinces, as explained in the next section

4.2 Droughts in the Prairie Provinces

As shown in FIG. 5, Canada’s Prairie Provinces,
consisting of Alberta, Saskatchewan and
Manitoba, have major rivers originating
in the Rocky Mountains which flow across
them. In the southern part, the North and
South Saskatchewan Rivers drain from west
to east to the middle part of the Province of FIG. 5. Prairie Provinces of Canada (NRCan, 2003)
Saskatchewan where they join together and
flow as a single river to Lake Winnipeg. compared to the early 20th century, with
peak runoff occurring increasingly earlier
Further north, the Peace River and Athabasca as the winter snowpacks are reduced and
River also start in the Rocky Mountains glaciers retreat in the Rocky Mountains
but flow northwards and eventually empty (Section 4.1) in conjunction with increasing
into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie temperature. The worst affected river is
River. Human modifications to river basins, the South Saskatchewan River, for which
possibly in combination with climate the summer flows have decreased by
warming, have already changed the timing 84% over the past century and its main
of the flows of major rivers in the Prairie tributaries (the Oldman, Bow and Red
Provinces, especially during the summer Deer Rivers) have been subjected to
months from May to August when water impoundments and winter flows have
demand is high (Schindler and Donahue, been substantially increased to protect
2006). In-stream flows requirements are the aquatic environment. As droughts
still met by the current runoff. About half and water shortages increase in the Prairie
of the ten key sites that were examined by Provinces, and perhaps other areas of
Schindler and Donahue (2006) currently Canada, the nation clearly needs insightful
receive 14 to 24% less precipitation than at governance for fairly allocating water among
the commencement of the period of record competing users, perhaps following the
and none of the locations have experienced systems approach proposed by Wang et al.
precipitation increases. (2008), who have applied their methodology
to the South Saskatchewan River Basin in
However, most seriously, Schindler and Alberta and the Aral Sea in Central Asia.
Donahue (2006) note that summer flows Accordingly, a specific recommendation is
have been reduced by 20 to 84% when put forward in Section 6.3.1.
Climate models predict an additional and Grasby (2009) argue that most climate
warming of several degrees for the and discharge records are too short to permit
Prairie Provinces later in the 21st century the extraction of long-term trends that might
(Canadian Institute for Climate Studies isolate the effects of recent global warming
Project, University of Victoria). In addition, from regional climatic shifts attributable to
the forecasted warming could significantly ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) and
increase evaporation by up to 55% in other natural decadal phenomena. Whatever
some locations. Although climate models the case, all of this work depends upon having
also predict slight precipitation increases, sufficient and reliable data and, therefore, a
these increments are much lower than the recommendation is put forward in Section
expected increases in evapotranspiration. 6.3.1 to enhance and expand the monitoring
What is interesting to note is the Prairie of Canada’s water resources so that informed
Provinces will become much drier in the decisions can be made. Shortages of water
future even if the precipitation increases. in the Prairie Provinces aggravate water
Moreover, as discussed in Section 4.1, glacial quality problems. Massive land use changes,
wasting in the Eastern Rocky Mountains destruction of wetlands and riparian areas,
has advanced far enough that glacial melt larger discharges of treated human and
is decreasing which in turn decreases the animal wastes, increased usage of fertilizers
summer flows of the main Prairie rivers. and pesticides, and expansion of activities
Unfortunately, drought in the Prairies will be in the oil and gas industries as well as other
further exacerbated as the human population industrial undertakings, all contribute to the
continues to increase, agricultural activities increased introduction of nutrients into the
expand, wetlands continue to disappear, and receiving bodies of water. This will cause
increased extraction of oil from the oil sands water quality problems such as increased
require more water if improved technologies eutrophication, more risk of infection by
currently available are not implemented waterborne pathogens and declining sports
(Section 4.3). fisheries if currently recognized treatment
technologies are not instituted.
The predictions referred to in the previous
paragraphs rely upon climate and hydrology 4.3 The Oil Sands
modeling as well as extensive statistical Of the many non-agricultural industrial uses
analyses in the face of high uncertainty, all of water, three have dominated the uses
of which depend upon having a reliable data in Canada: pulp mill operations, a variety
base and extensive monitoring. Therefore, of mining operations, and the oil and gas
it is not surprising that there is not universal industries. These are primarily raw material
agreement about the causes or seriousness of extraction and export industries for Canada
these predictions (Grasby, 2008). Environment with only limited value-added components.
Canada (2004) data show that drought in Water use is variable in these industries. In
Western Canada and in the Great Lakes region the pulp mill operations, most if not all of the
has been cyclical over decadal periods. Chen mills have secondary wastewater treatment in
operation. In the mining industries, operational
protocols commonly led to finding alternative
water use options and water treatment or
storage. The oil industry, particularly the oil
sands developments of Alberta, has received
a great deal of attention because of the
enormity of the reserves, the increased pace
of expanding oil sands projects, a range
of environmental problems including both
water quantity and quality issues, and fairness
issues over how the wealth is shared among
the stakeholders. The oil sands, which are FIG. 6. Oil Sands Areas (ERCB, 2009)
also referred to as the tar sands, are viscous
mixtures composed of inorganic materials, in-situ technologies. Twenty percent of the
bitumen, silt, clay, and water, along with oil sands are recoverable via surface mining,
a small portion of other materials such as while 80 percent are recoverable via in-situ
titanium, zirconium, tourmaline, and pyrite. methods (CAPP, 2011). When the oil sands
are situated within 75 meters of the surface,
The bitumen is a viscous, heavy crude oil- huge shovels are used to dig up the ground on
based material which is extracted from the the surface of the land for loading into large
oil sands and subsequently upgraded into a dump trucks for transportation to a crusher
range of oil products. As shown in FIG. 6, a and cyclofeeder. The oil sands are mixed with
great deal of Canada’s oil sands is situated a diluent to form a slurry for hydrotransport
at three main locations in the Province of via pipelines or trucks to an extraction facility
Alberta: Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace where the bitumen is separated from the
River, whose total area is 140,200 km2, which oil sands through a water-based extraction
is about the same size as the USA state process. Utilization of this technology results
of Florida. These three areas are located in 90 percent of the bitumen being recovered.
in the Mackenzie River Basin, a vast and
crucial ecosystem comprising 1.8 million Unlike surface mining, the in-situ approach
km2, or 20%, of Canada’s total land area does not leave large pits on the landscape
(de Loë, 2010). Canada’s total estimated and is used for recovering bitumen from
oil reserves of 178 billion barrels, of which deeply-buried oil sands deposits. The basic
173 are contained in the oil sands, make idea behind the range of in-situ mechanisms
Canada the world’s second largest oil nation is to employ a specific procedure for forcing
after Saudi Arabia which has reserves of bitumen to the surface for collection and
267 billion barrels (US Energy Information transportation to processing facilities. Four
Administration, July 2010). Two main key in-situ technologies are the Cyclic Steam
approaches are utilized to recover bitumen in Stimulator (CSS), Steam-Assisted Gravity
the oil sands: surface, or open-pit, mining and Drainage (SAGD), Vapor Extraction (VAPEX),
and Toe-to-Heel-Air-Injection (THAI) methods. Bitumen can be upgraded employing two
For CSS and SAGD, steam is injected through main procedures: coking to remove carbon
pipes into the oil sands reservoir to heat the and hydro-cracking to add hydrogen to
bitumen. The lowering of the viscosity of the produce a variety of different oil-based
bitumen permits it to flow like conventional products. Currently, about 60% of the
oil such that the heated oil and water can bitumen produced in Alberta is upgraded in
be pumped to the surface. Approximately the province while 10% is delivered to other
20 to 25% and up to 60% of the bitumen provinces in Canada and 30% to the United
is recovered using the CSS and SAGD States for further processing (Prebble et al.,
procedures, respectively. Because SAGD 2009; ERCB, 2009; Edmonton Journal, 2008).
is more efficient in terms of a lower steam-
to-oil ratio (SOR), it requires less natural gas Unfortunately, the amount of raw bitumen
than CSS for producing the steam (National exported outside of Canada may increase
Energy Board, 2004). to 50% by 2019 (Hipel and Bowman, 2011).
Hence, Alberta, in particular, and Canada,
When using VAPEX, vaporized solvents, such overall, have an opportunity to substantially
as propane and butane, are injected into the increase the “value-added” to the oil sands
reservoir in order to cause the bitumen to industry by doing all of the refining in Canada
move towards the production well. Since a and thereby creating more highly skilled jobs,
vaporized solvent is used instead of steam, enhancing profits, reducing the need to build
water is not needed for recovery and CO2 more pipelines to ship raw bitumen to the US,
emissions are reduced. The percentage of keeping oil sands environmental problems
capital and operating costs of VAPEX versus more concentrated so that associated cleanup
SAGD are 75% and 50%, respectively. Within and recycling can be done more effectively,
the THAI system, air injected through a vertical and expanding refining technologies. In a
shaft at the “toe” forces bitumen which has recent report, the Government of Alberta
been combusted underground to flow as oil (2009) recognized the importance of some
to a recovery well at the “heel”, as depicted in of the foregoing issues. Since, as explained
FIG. 7. A drawback of THAI is that it produces below, the oil sands industry uses substantial
more CO2 (McKenzie-Brown, 2009). amounts of water and produces a range
of environmental impacts like large-scale
holding ponds containing toxic wastes, it
makes sense that Canada should reap the full
value-added benefits of its oil sands industry.
In turn, this would meaningfully contribute
towards Prime Minister Harper’s (2008)
stated vision of Canada becoming an energy
superpower, and the Canadian Academy of
Engineering’s goal (Bowman and Griesbach,
FIG. 7. THAI Process (Petroleum World, 2004) 2009; Bowman et al., 2009) of Canada taking
systematic steps to be a “sustainable” energy (Section 3.5), which compels Canada to
superpower. sell to the USA the exact percentage of oil
exports that prevailed over the previous
In 2008, Canada exported about 1.9 million three years, even if Canada urgently needs
barrels of oil to the US, which constitute 19% the oil for its own purposes. Over the
of the American oil imports, making Canada years, oil sands activities have contributed
the largest supplier of oil to the US and the considerably to Canada’s economy. For
US, in turn, Canada’s largest oil customer. Of example, the oil sands industry expects
this volume, 1.7 million barrels per day were the annual capital expenditures to be
provided from Western Canada (CAPP, 2009). generated in the range of about $8 billion
to $12 billion (Richardson, 2007). Between
In fact, according to the National Energy Board 2000 and 2020, the Canadian Energy
(NEB, 2004), 75% of Canada’s nonconvention Research Institute (CERI) has estimated
al oil exported to the United States is that the total economic impact of oil sands
transported to the Petroleum Administration activities will create a GDP benefit of $885
for Defense District II (PADD, built during billion. In Alberta, oil sands activities as
World War II to organize and distribute oil to a percentage of Gross Domestic Product
five districts in the US) located in the Midwest will increase from 15% of GDP in 2006 to
where there is substantial refining capacity. 20% in 2011 (Mourougane, 2008). In fact,
If Canada’s oil sands production level of 5 because the royalty and tax charges from
million barrels per day in 2030 is achieved the oil sands project are extremely low, the
and export levels are maintained, the US total cost per barrel of oil from the oil sands
will import about 4.5 million barrels per day project is less than the total cost per barrel
from Canada or approximately 30% of all of conventional oil (Humphries, 2008).
US crude oil imports. No doubt, emerging
industrialized countries like China and India, Although this policy may stimulate growth,
will also want to buy Canadian oil. Therefore, authors, such as Marsden (2008) and Nikiforuk
it is essential that Canada gain full control of (2008) point out that jurisdictions such as
value-added to not only oil, but also to its Norway and Alaska are benefiting financially
other natural resources, including water. much better than Alberta, because their
revenue policies mandate that significantly
This advice is put forward as a larger amounts of their non-renewable
recommendation in Section 6.3.1. Bitumen resource money directly benefits their citizens.
from Alberta is now being refined into Hence, for instance, the Alberta Heritage
value-added fuel in the US and sold back to Fund, Alaska Permanent Fund and Norway’s
Canadians at a premium (Marsden, 2008, p. fund for their citizens contained about 15.4,
57). A further complication to the export of 37 and 306 billion dollars, respectively, in
oil and other resources to the USA is Article 2006. One loophole in the Alberta policy
605, the proportionality clause of the North is that oil sands companies only pay 1% of
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) their revenues as royalties and this does not
increase to 25% until it has paid off its entire Oil sands operations require two to six barrels
capital cost. Accordingly, oil sands extraction of water for every barrel of oil produced
companies are being encouraged to expand, (PTAC, 2007; Eyles and Miall, 2007). These
and requested permits for expansion by operations are consuming nearly 1% of the
existing and new companies are never Athabasca River’s average flow (Hrudey
refused. Former Alberta Premier Lougheed et al., 2010), which is enough water to
believes that the expansion is taking place sustain a city of two million people per year
far too quickly without due regard to the (Woynillowicz and Severson-Baker, 2006), and
environment and societal issues. Furthermore, its consumption from the river is forecasted
Hipel and Bowman (2011) point out that to double in the future. Moreover, two thirds
Alberta and Canada are losing economic, of all water consumption from the Athabasca
employment and technological benefits by River is consumed by the oil sands industry
allowing large quantities of unprocessed (CAPP, 2008b). Because the production from
bitumen to be exported. Currently, about oil sands is predicted to increase rapidly,
30% of unprocessed bitumen is being water consumption is also expected to grow.
shipped outside of Canada and this could Therefore, reducing the water consumption
increase to 50% by 2019. Canada clearly and increasing the water return volume are
requires a policy in which all of its natural major challenges that must be overcome.
resources, including oil, must have strong
“value-added” components. Besides water quantity, water quality is a
major issue in the oil sands. After bitumen
By emitting 2% of the world’s total global is extracted from oil sands, the remaining
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Canada materials, consisting of residual sands and
ranked ninth in the world in 2005. Within polluted water, are sent to settling ponds,
Canada, oil sands GHG emissions account referred to as tailings ponds. Each day,
for 5% of the nation’s total emissions (CAPP, about 1.8 million m3 of toxic tailings waste
2008a). However, per capita, Canada is the is produced. These tailings ponds cover
second largest GHG emitter next to the USA around 130 km2 and, taking into account
(Mourougane, 2008). Within Alberta, the oil both approved and planned projects, the
sands industries account for 23.3% of GHG total size of tailings ponds will reach 220
emissions which is second to the utilities km2 having a volume of 11,648 million m3
sector at 43.6% (Alberta Environment, 2008). (Grant et al., 2008). Although the risk may
Even though GHG emissions per barrel from be low, the human-made dykes containing
oil sands are decreasing steadily due to tailings ponds could fail and thereby release
improved technologies and procedures, the massive quantities of pollutants into receiving
GHG emissions from oil sands are expected bodies of water, such as the Athabasca River.
to increase nearly three times by 2010 Wastewater could also leak from tailings
when compared to 2006 because of greatly ponds into the ground and surface water.
expanded extraction of bitumen (Grant et. However, movement of surface water into
al., 2009). the groundwater through the clay bottom
material of the wastewater storage ponds is to natural seepage of the bitumen into the
extremely slow with percolation rates of about groundwater and surface waters. Further
10-9 m/s. Low permeability clay is continuously studies need to be undertaken to attain a fuller
being added at the base, meaning much understanding of the impacts and origin of
more than several meters of clay forms the pollutants in the oil sands region. Currently, no
barrier. As a result, companies claim that the research programs are in place to investigate
Athabasca River is not being contaminated by the issue of groundwater pollution. Kim et al.
their tailings ponds and less oily material may (2011) employed systems methodologies to
be entering the Athabasca River now than investigate water quantity and quality problems
before the development due to the blockage in Canada´s oil sands from a multiple objective
of naturally oily leaching materials. However, decision making viewpoint.
an estimate by Environmental Defence (cited
by Hrudey et al., 2010, p. 111) suggests that The area of land disrupted by surface mining
seepage of polluted water from all tailings is about 3,500 km2, of which only 0.2% of the
ponds is currently at a rate of some 11,000 m3/ land has been reclaimed (Grant et al., 2008)
day. Evaporation and reuse of treated tailings as the mining operations in these areas are
pond water are ways for reducing the size of not yet complete. Such a massive change
the tailings ponds, in addition to approaches of landscape can be highly destructive to
for decreasing overall water demand by the ecosystems. By 2008, surface mining had
oil sands industry. No tailings ponds have as of destroyed 530 km2 of Canada’s Boreal Forest
yet been fully reclaimed (Hrudey et al., 2010). (Kelly et al., 2010), an enormous region
stretching east to west across Canada’s
Contrary to the findings of the industry-funded mid-section (FIG. 8). It is in fact “one of the
Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program that largest intact forest and wetland ecosystems
there is no evidence of oil sands developments remaining on Earth” (Environment News
having a detrimental impact on the Athabasca Service, 2007). On December 14, 2009, a
River, recent independent studies have shown group of prominent international scientists
that there is a significant level of dissolved sent an open letter to the government of
polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs), a Canada, as well as to the seven other boreal
pollutant that is detrimental to human and forest nations, underscoring the importance
aquatic life, in the vicinity and downstream of oil of boreal forests as a carbon depository
sands developments (Kelly et al., 2009), and that and urging the government to take decisive
the 13 elements considered priority pollutants actions to safeguard this crucial ecosystem.
under the US Environmental Protection
Agency’s Clean Water Act are being released to A statement from the group accompanying
the Athabasca River and its watershed by the oil the release of the report asserted that boreal
sands industry (Kelly et al., 2010). The oil sands forests are “not only the cornerstone habitat
are extensively exposed along the banks of the for key mammal species, but one of the most
Athabasca River and its tributaries, and some, significant carbon stores in the world, the
at least, of the pollution may be attributable equivalent of 26 years of global emissions
from burning fossil fuels, based on 2006 changes their quality. This consequence will
emissions levels. Globally, these forests store have further impacts on boreal forest, as the
22% of all carbon on the earth’s land surface” Mackenzie River is crucial for maintaining the
(Braun, 2009). The report explains that carbon boreal forest that follows it north as far as
is stored not only in the forest vegetation, the Arctic Ocean (Wood, 2010). The health
but, more importantly, in “the associated of the Mackenzie River is especially critical to
soils, permafrost deposits, wetlands and the northern Aboriginal communities living
peatlands” (Carlson et al., 2009). When the alongside it, who rely on it to maintain their
forest vegetation or soils are disturbed by traditional way of life and have a constitutional
climate change or direct human intrusion, guarantee to this right (Miltenberger, 2010).
the stored carbon is released and the carbon
sequestration capability of the forest is Henry Vaux Jr., Professor of Resource
diminished (Carlson et al., 2009). Economics at the University of California and
Emeritus Chair of the Rosenberg International
Forum on Water Policy, contends that the
monetary value of the ecological services
provided by the Mackenzie ecosystem,
including carbon credits, vastly outweighs
the profits from oil sands developments
(Wood, 2010). In light of the importance of
the Mackenzie River Basin and the serious
threats it is facing, Rob de Loë, Professor and
University Research Chair in Water Policy and
Governance at the University of Waterloo,
recommends that Alberta and the four other
provinces and territories that share the basin,
FIG. 8. Canada’s Boreal Forest (NRCan, 2007)
as well as the Aboriginal groups in the region,
In the view of David Schindler, Killam Memorial adopt a collaborative approach to managing
Professor of Ecology at the University of the Mackenzie Basin, incorporating “accepted
Alberta, this process will accelerate climate international norms and best practices” (de
change to an extent that will dwarf the most Loë, 2010). The in-situ method of extraction
recent estimates from the Intergovernmental might make the degradation of the landscape
Panel on Climate Change (Schwartz, 2010). to appear to be less serious. Nonetheless, in-
Moreover, the boreal forests of the Mackenzie situ operations require infrastructure such as
River Basin, where the oil sands are being roads, transmission lines, and pipelines, and
developed, are important for providing therefore can also affect both flora and fauna
rain to Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec via negatively over the long term (Richardson,
transpiration (Wood, 2010). A further effect 2007). By the way in which in-situ mining is
of surface mining is that it alters the flows of executed, it can have negative effects upon
both ground and surface waters and possibly groundwater resources, although it should
be noted that the groundwater is already to speed up the sedimentation of the clay in
naturally contaminated. the tailings pond, and thereby reduce the time
required for their reclamation. Polyacrylamide
Greatly increased demand for water by is a substance used in municipal and industrial
the oil sands industry coupled with drier wastewater treatment plants to flocculate
periods brought about by climate change solids. Suncor is developing a method for the
means that water resources will be further application of this substance to the tailings
stressed in terms of decreased availability ponds, and projects that it will permit the ponds
and deteriorating quality. Mannix et al. (2010) to be sedimented, dried out and undergo
emphasize that a long-term, cost-effective reclamation in ten years, instead of the 40 years
strategy is needed to properly manage the under the present reclamation methods.
implementation of water restrictions in the oil
sands. Bruce (2006) points out that although Two important independent studies of the
winter low flows in the Athabasca River oil sands were released in December 2010.
have declined dramatically in recent years, The Royal Society of Canada commissioned
water has been allocated for future projects an expert panel report on the health and
based on the much higher long-term average environmental impacts of Canada´s oil sands
winter flows. Water should, of course, be industry. The report concludes that, although
allocated fairly in a sustainable fashion among the environmental and health effects of the
competing users, including the environment, oil sands have thus far not been as drastic
perhaps following the fairness allocation as some have alleged, both the Alberta
approach designed by Wang et al. (2008). and federal governments are failing to
Fairness can be encoded into governance implement monitoring, assessment and
procedures in which independent regulators regulation of the oil sands to an extent that
and inspectors ensure compliance to the is keeping pace with the rapid expansion of
associated water quantity and quality laws oil sands development (Hrudey et al., 2010).
and regulations. Overall fairness also entails Moreover, an Advisory Panel to the Federal
making sure that revenues from the oil sands Minister of the Environment consisting of five
are equitably shared among stakeholders and leading environmental scientists, including
that all “value-added” activities connected to co-author of this paper Dr. Andrew D. Miall,
the oil sands are carried out in Canada. conducted a review of the current state of
environmental research and monitoring in the
New extraction projects in the oil sands are region surrounding oil sands developments,
making use of deep saline groundwater, instead and made recommendations regarding
of fresh surface waters, and companies are also monitoring and best practices to ensure
improving their ability to recycle the water that the oil sands are developed in an
multiple times, which is significantly reducing environmentally sustainable manner.
demand for the fresh waters of the Athabasca
system. Another “game changer” in the oil Assessing the existing approaches to
sands is the development of a new technique monitoring the oil sands to be inadequate
and lacking in coordination, the Panel called the Garrison Diversion Unit (GDU).
recommends “that a shared national vision Under the GDU plan of 1965, the Americans
and management framework of aligned would transfer water from Lake Sakakawea
priorities, policies and programs be developed in the Missouri River Basin, formed by the
collaboratively by relevant jurisdictions completion of the Garrison Dam on the
and stakeholders” in order to establish a Missouri River in 1955, via the proposed
monitoring and reporting system for the oil McClusky Canal over the great divide to
sands that is holistic and integrated, adaptive, the Hudson Bay Drainage Basin where the
scientifically credible, and transparent and water would be used to irrigate crops in
accessible (Dowdeswell et al., 2010). the northeastern part of North Dakota. The
polluted runoff from the irrigated fields
4.4 Red River Basin: Ecosystem would flow via the Souris and Red Rivers into
Security and Flooding Canada from where it would eventually enter
As shown in FIG. 9, the Red River Basin overlaps Hudson Bay. In addition to increased flows,
with the American states of North Dakota and pollution from fertilizers and pesticides, and
Minnesota, as well as the southern part of the draining of wetlands, the major concern
Canadian province of Manitoba in the center of was the possible introduction of foreign
North America. The Red River flows for over 800 biota from the Missouri River Basin into the
km from south to north where it empties into Hudson Bay Drainage Basin, which could, for
Lake Winnipeg north of the City of Winnipeg. example, destroy the fishing industry in Lake
Although the Red River region is best known for Winnipeg in Manitoba. Accordingly, the US
extensive flooding, it also has the potential for and Canadian governments called upon the
serious water quality problems. IJC to make a recommendation. In its report
of 1977, the IJC ruled that all portions of the
project except the Lonetree Reservoir should
be discontinued. The Garrison Diversion Unit
Commission, created by the US Secretary of
the Interior on August 11, 1984, essentially
recommended in its report of December 20,
1984, that the GDU project not continue.
Strategic analyses of the GDU controversy
are provided by Hipel and Fraser (1984) and
FIG. 9. Red River Drainage Basin (Manitoba Water Fang et al. (1993, Ch. 6).
Stewardship, 2010)

One environmental dispute arising between An ongoing environmental conflict between

the United States and Canada, which the US and Canada which has not yet been
was amicably resolved by a ruling of the satisfactorily resolved is the Devils Lake Outlet
International Joint Commission (IJC) (Section Diversion conflict which has been formally
3.2), is the conflict arising over the proposed studied strategically by Ma et al. (2011) and
construction of a large irrigation project described in many newspaper articles and
reports (Noone, 2004, 2005; US Army Corps while North Dakota kept constructing its own
of Engineers, 2005; North Dakota State project. On August 5, 2005, Frank McKenna,
Government, 2001; North Dakota State Water Canada’s ambassador to the United States,
Commission, 2010). Because Devils Lake, suddenly announced a negotiated deal with
located in North Dakota, is land-locked and North Dakota had been reached in which the
water drains towards it (FIG. 9), evaporation state would add a temporary gravel barrier
and runoff from farm land has caused the lake as the filter to the project before it begins
to be severely polluted. Since the last ice age, operating (CBC News, 2005). The emergency
Devils Lake has fluctuated between being dry outlet diversion has been completed and
and having a high water level, as it does now. since August 15, 2005, water from Devils
Lake has been draining into the Sheyenne
The current elevated level of Devils Lake, as River (Lambert, 2005). However, since an
well as increased Red River flooding, could be advanced permanent filter still has not been
due to augmented flows of moisture-laden installed the conflict is ongoing (Owen and
warm air from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Rabson, 2010).
Plains in combination with climate change.
In order to alleviate the high water levels When North Americans think of the Red River,
and associated flooding, the state of North they usually envision massive widespread
Dakota decided to construct independently flooding. In fact, the Red River system is
a temporary emergency outlet called the prone to serious flooding and in recent years
Peterson Coulee Outlet, rather than wait major floods occurred in 1997, 2009, and
for the US Army Corps of Engineers to build 2011 (CBC Manitoba, 2011). In part, the
an outlet which was delayed as a result of flood danger results from the fact that over
environmental concerns. Because the outlet much of its length the river lies within a flat
empties into the Sheyenne River, a tributary floodplain, in contrast to the incised nature
of the Red River which flows northward into of many other western rivers such as the Bow
Canada, the outlet poses potential risks in and Saskatchewan Rivers. In addition, the
transferring invasive species and degrading substrate beneath the river over much of its
water quality in Manitoba, which can course consists of a thick, impermeable clay,
negatively affect people’s health, fisheries which allows very little of the spring runoff to
and the tourist industry (Byers, 2005). percolate into the ground.

Therefore, in April 2004, the Canadian A further complication is that ice jams
Government formally requested that the can occur in the Red River in the spring
Devils Lake outlet proposal be referred to since the river flows from the south to
the IJC to conduct an independent, impartial north where thaws take place later. FIG.
review of the risks. Because no response from 10 displays the flooding which occurred
the US Government was forthcoming, the in April and May of 1997 for which the
Canadian Government continued to press the resulting lake was up to 40 km wide. At its
US Government to agree to an IJC reference, peak on May 4, 1997, more than 2,560 km2
of land was inundated in Manitoba to form
Canada’s “Red Sea”. The total damages
incurred in the US and Manitoba was $3.5
billion and $500 million, respectively. The
American Cities of Grand Forks and East
Grand Forks received extensive damage
from the flooding. Fortunately, the City of
Winnipeg was protected by a floodway built
between 1962 and 1968 as a joint federal/
provincial/municipal project, following
severe inundation of the city in 1950, which
displaced some 100,000 residents.

This channel has proved its worth several

times, especially during the 1997 flood
as depicted in FIG. 10. Clearly, Canada
has done an outstanding job in flood plain
management within the Red River Basin –
this knowledge, technology and expertise
could be utilized elsewhere in Canada and
the Americas. Nonetheless, Canada still
has much to learn about being proactive
and adaptive in flood protection and
evacuation as evidenced by the flooding FIG. 10. Red River 1997 Flood Zone (NRCan, 2008)
of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region
which occurred in Quebec after two days of 4.5 The Great Lakes: Pollution,
torrential rainfall in July, 1996. Diversions and Fluctuating Water Levels
The Great Lakes Basin is located in the
This worst flood in Canadian history, which heartland of North America and is shared by
was only supposed to happen once in Canada and the USA. FIG. 11 portrays a map
10,000 years, resulted in 10 deaths, $800 of this unique and prosperous basin which
million in damages, and the destruction of contains the largest supply of fresh surface
1,718 houses and 900 cottages (Grescoe, water in the world. All five of the Great
1997). In this and similar areas, flood Lakes eventually flow into the St. Lawrence
control structures are required due to River which empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
the geography of the region. Flood plain Because less than 1% of the water in the
management through zoning and restriction Great Lakes is renewed annually, the waters
of construction in the flood plain is not as of the Great Lakes are essentially a non-
widely practiced as required to reduce the renewable resource (i.e., the retention time
cost of flood damage. is greater than 100 years). As can be seen in
FIG. 11, the eastern section of this map also 3.2), are in place in the St. Mary’s River at
includes river basins that drain directly into the outlet of Lake Superior and in the St.
the St. Lawrence River. From east to west, the Lawrence River below the outflow from Lake
Great Lakes Basin spans more than 1,200 km Ontario. Ocean-going ships can travel from
and encompasses an area of more than one the far western end of Lake Superior through
million km2 which is the home for about 40 the Great Lakes and eastwards along the St.
million Canadians and Americans. Lawrence River for a distance of more than
2000 km via a navigation system referred to
as the St. Lawrence Seaway. As part of this
system, the Welland Canal joining Lake Erie
to Lake Ontario permits ships to circumvent
the Niagara Falls. Water is diverted around
Niagara Falls to allow hydroelectric energy to
be generated on both sides of the Canada/
US border due to a hydraulic head afforded
by the Niagara Escarpment.

Besides agriculture and mining activities, the

basin also contains many prosperous industrial
FIG. 11. Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin (NRCan, 2003)
centers. The City of Toronto, for instance, is
Canada’s largest city and possesses a rich
Fertile agricultural land exists in many regions diversity of industrial enterprises. The City of
in the basin, such as in the southern part of Detroit, located in Michigan where the Detroit
Ontario. Sufficient precipitation is available River drains Lake Superior into Lake Erie, is
throughout the growing season to support the most important center for automobile
forest cover and agricultural activities, while production in the USA. Moreover, much of
during the winter season, snow blankets the the historical, cultural, economic and political
ground for quite a few months with very cold development of Canada and the USA has
weather conditions in the northern regions occurred in the Great Lakes Basin. As shown
of the basin. Groundwater contributes in FIG. 1 and 11, two Canadian provinces and
significantly to the overall water supply in the eight American states control land that is
Great Lakes Basin and, for example, accounts part of the basin. Therefore, a total of twelve
for about 42 percent of the yearly supply to governments, two federal plus ten state or
Lakes Huron and Ontario (directly, as well as provincial governments, share jurisdiction
indirectly by contributing to river inflows). over the Great Lakes Basin and effective
The hydraulic characteristics of the Great management can only be accomplished on
Lakes system such as water levels are mainly the basis of cooperative arrangements. As a
the result of natural fluctuations rather than direct result of the two nations’ determination
human intervention. Control works, operated to be friendly neighbours and trading
under the authority of the IJC (Section partners, there have been no wars between
Canada and the USA since the War of 1812- in 1987 amended the 1978 Agreement with
14 when invading American forces attacking the goals of strengthening the programs,
at many points in the Great Lakes region practices and technologies contained in the
shown in FIG. 11 failed to wrest control of earlier agreement. However, the Protocol
Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower gave the IJC a less central role, thereby
Canada (Quebec) from Great Britain. reducing government accountability.

The fundamental international legal document Because the Great Lakes Basin falls within the
governing the use of the waters of the Great territories of eight states and two provinces,
Lakes Basin is the Boundary Waters Treaty of it is not surprising that these political entities
1909 described in Section 3.2. Almost all of have cooperated with one another over the
the international agreements regarding water years in the management of the Great Lakes
quantity and quality problems in the Great Basin. Specifically, on February 11, 1985, the
Lakes Basin that have been jointly created and Great Lakes Charter was launched as a means
signed over the years are founded upon the for the Great Lakes states and the provinces
powers and “spirit of cooperation” enshrined of Ontario and Quebec to manage the water
in this well-crafted 1909 treaty. Accordingly, resources of the Great Lakes in a cooperative
even though improvements could be made, fashion. A key principle of the Charter is
the Great Lakes system has been remarkably that the planning and management of the
well managed and thereby constitutes a water resources of the Great Lakes Basin
model for other nations to consider following should be based upon the integrity of the
as they develop their own bilateral and natural resources and ecosystem of the basin.
multilateral agreements over water. Additionally, the Basin should be treated as
a single hydrological system that transcends
Consider what has happened with respect political jurisdictions. A key clause is that
to water quality in the Great Lakes. Earlier “diversions of Basin water resources will not
reference studies executed by the IJC led be allowed if individually or cumulatively they
directly to the Great Lakes Water Quality would have any significant adverse impacts
Agreement of 1972, which was primarily on lake levels, in-basin uses, and the Great
concerned with reducing phosphorus levels Lakes Ecosystem”.
in Lakes Ontario and Erie shown in Figure
FIG. 11. This 1972 agreement was superseded In the spring of 1998, the Ontario government
by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement approved a permit for Nova Group of
of 1978, which put forth an ecosystem Sault Saint Marie in Ontario to remove 160
approach to water quality management to million gallons of water per year from Lake
restore and maintain the chemical, physical Superior for exporting to Asia (Section 4.7).
and biological integrity of the Great Lakes Even though the Ontario Government later
Basin Ecosystem. Both the 1972 and 1978 rescinded the license, the public backlash in
agreements contained phosphorous loading Ontario and the United States led to a review
and toxic chemical limits. A Protocol signed of bulk water removals by the IJC. This also
prompted the Great Lakes Governors to spread public concern over the risk of costly
form a Working Group to study this issue in damage, the Canadian and US governments
1999, which Ontario and Quebec joined later requested the IJC to carry out an investigation
in the year. Subsequently, the Great Lakes and make appropriate recommendations.
Governors and two Premiers signed the Great The IJC created the Levels Reference Study
Lakes Charter Annex 2001 on June 18, 2001 Board which eventually released its final report
in Niagara Falls, New York, as an amendment on March 31, 1993. To alleviate the adverse
to the Great Lakes Charter of 1985. Within consequences of fluctuating water levels, the
Annex 2001, parties agreed to prepare basin- Board recommended a combination of actions
wide binding agreements in contrast to the related to land-use regulatory practices and
voluntary obligations of the original 1985 that no further consideration be given to
Charter. On December 13, 2005, the eight the regulation of water levels via hydraulic
Governors and two Premiers signed the Great structures (Levels Reference Study Board,
Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable 1993; Rajabi et al., 2001; Yin et al., 1999).
Water Resources Agreement and endorsed
the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water 4.6 Hydroelectricity in Quebec: the
Resources Compact, which became law on James Bay Project and Churchill Falls
December 8, 2008. Key components of the Canada is the second-largest producer of
agreements are the ban of new diversions of hydroelectricity in the world (behind China),
water from the Basin except for some special producing 13% of global hydroelectricity
cases, and economic development must be (International Energy Agency, 2008).
executed via the sustainable use of water.
Hydroelectricity accounts for about 60% of
The substantial monthly and yearly fluctuations Canada’s overall electricity production and
in water levels present significant problems 97% of its renewable energy generation
with respect to shoreline flooding and erosion, (Government of Canada, 2009). In Quebec,
hydroelectric power generation, navigation, over 95% of the electricity distributed by
docking, and the loading and unloading of Hydro-Québec, the province’s leading
transported materials (Environment Canada, electricity provider, is hydroelectric (Hydro-
2009; Section 5.5). In fact, in 1985 and Québec, 2009). Canada is currently “a world
1986, following almost 20 years of above- leader in hydropower production, with an
average precipitation and below-average installed capacity of over 70,858 megawatts
evaporation, all lakes except Lake Ontario (MW), and an annual average production
reached their highest levels in the 20th of 350 terawatt-hour (TWh)” (Government
century. In combination with high water of Canada, 2009). Canada has the greatest
levels, storm activity caused severe flooding, hydroelectric capacity in the world (Canadian
erosion of shorelines, and extensive damage Geographic, 2010b). Its current hydroelectric
to lakeshore properties. In response to the production has the potential of being more
issue of fluctuating water levels in the Great than doubled (Government of Canada,
Lakes-St. Lawrence system and the wide- 2009). Canada is the largest supplier of
electricity to the US, primarily in the form Nine free-flowing rivers were diverted and
of hydroelectricity (Burney, 2009), exporting dammed by the project, flooding 11,500 km2
6 to 10% of its electrical generation to of boreal forest. The project also caused the
the US (Centre for Energy, 2010). Most release of mercury into the water system,
provinces have an electrical connection with contaminating fish and contributing to the
adjacent US states and all of the provinces death of 10,000 caribou. Moreover, the
are interconnected with neighbouring project devastated the livelihood and way of
provinces, allowing exchanges of electrical life of indigenous people living in the affected
power. Canadian utilities and governments area (Canadian Encyclopedia, 2010).
are currently striving to augment east-west
electricity flow amongst provinces (Centre for
Energy, 2010).

Canada’s largest hydroelectric-power

development is the James Bay Project, shown
in FIG. 12, which is located on the east coast
of James Bay in the province of Quebec and
supplies over half of Quebec’s hydroelectric
power. The project was initiated in 1971 by
Hydro-Québec and the Quebec government.
A total of nine generating stations have been
FIG. 12. James Bay Project (Hydro-Québec, 2010)
constructed and two more stations are currently
under construction. The project currently has The Churchill Falls Generating Station
a generating capacity of 16,000 MW, which is is another major source of hydroelectric
three times that of the Niagara Falls stations power exported to Quebec that has stirred
and eight times that of Hoover Dam. If the controversy, but primarily for political
project were expanded to incorporate all reasons. The Churchill Falls Station is one of
of the other planned dams and projects, the largest underground power stations in
it would generate 27,000 MW, becoming the world, having a rated capacity of 5,428
the world’s largest hydroelectric system MW (Nalcor Energy, 2010a). Churchill Falls
(Academic dictionaries and encyclopedias). is located in Newfoundland and Labrador
Although hydro-electric power has several (NL), which borders the north-east corner of
advantages over other energy sources, Quebec. Since NL does not share a border
such as not producing greenhouse gases with any other province or American state
during electricity generation and having and Quebec does not allow it to transfer
an extremely efficient conversion rate of power across its borders, it is compelled to
water flow to electricity production (Armin, sell its electricity solely to Quebec. Shortly
2010), the James Bay Project has generated before the signing of the deal between the
considerable controversy on account of its Churchill Falls Labrador Company (CFLCo)
negative environmental and societal impacts. and Hydro-Québec in 1968, Hydro-Québec
acquired insider information that CFLCo was Private companies, both within and outside
on the verge of bankruptcy. Hydro-Québec of Canada, would like to export Canadian
exploited this knowledge by changing the water in bulk quantities in order to make
terms of the deal such that it would purchase large profits for themselves. In 1998, the
power from CFLCo at an extremely low province of Ontario issued a permit to Nova
cost and the expiry of the contract was Group Ltd. of Sault St. Marie for the export
extended from 2016 to 2040. Quebec has by tanker from Lake Superior of 4 to 6 million
subsequently made windfall profits from m3 of water per year.
selling this power to the US, while NL has
accrued comparatively meagre profits. The The federal government announced its
contract has been challenged in court twice opposition to the permit and under public
by the NL government, but the courts have pressure the Ontario Ministry of the
upheld it each time (Montreal Gazette, 2005). Environment cancelled Nova’s permit. In
The creation of a new station, the Lower February 1999, the federal government
Churchill Falls Project, has been planned and launched a strategy consisting of three
proposals for its construction are currently components to prohibit the bulk removal
being reviewed (Nalcor Energy, 2010b). of water from Canadian watersheds. The
first is the establishment of a Canada-wide
4.7 Threat of Water Exports accord with all of the provinces banning
Canada has often failed to take full advantage bulk water removal in which each province
of its natural resources from economic, creates legislation to meet this goal. Within
environmental and societal perspectives. the second component, Canada put forward
For example, much of Canada’s forestry a joint reference with the United States to
resources are shipped to other countries the International Joint Commission (IJC) to
as unprocessed logs or raw lumber and investigate the effects of water consumption,
significant amounts of the oil recovered from diversion and removal, including for export
the oil sands (Section 4.3) are not being refined from boundary waters. Subsequently, in
in Alberta or elsewhere in Canada. There are February 2000, the IJC submitted its final
thus very limited value-added components to report entitled “Protection of the Waters of
these resources, resulting in massive losses the Great Lakes”, in which it recommended
in jobs and profits. Furthermore, Canada is a precautionary approach (SEHN, 1998)
particularly vulnerable to losing control of its whereby water removal not be authorized
valuable fresh water resources and potentially unless it can be shown that such removals will
suffering extensive ecological damage. As not adversely affect the integrity of the Great
noted in Section 3.5, contrary to the claims Lakes ecosystem.
of the former Progressive Conservative
government which negotiated the North Finally, in the third component of its strategy,
America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the federal government amended the 1909
Canadian freshwater is not protected under International Boundary Water Treaty Act by
NAFTA (Nikiforuk, 2007). provisions that give the Minister of Foreign
Affairs the authority to prohibit bulk water However, as a result of stiff opposition from
removals from boundary waters. To further environmental groups and concerned citizens,
strengthen the protection of Canada’s waters, the BC government imposed a temporary
the Canadian Water Issues Council (2008) moratorium on March 18, 1991, which
has formulated a model federal statute that was made permanent in June 1995 by the
would prevent the bulk removal of freshwater provincial Water Protection Act. Because Sun
from Canada´s natural basins. By not allowing Belt failed to reach a settlement with respect
water to be exported out of its natural basins, to its lawsuit against the BC government for
ecological integrity is preserved. damage claims, ultimately Sun Belt decided
to take advantage of provisions under
On December 13, 2005, the Governors of NAFTA (Section 3.5) to sue for monetary
eight American states bordering the Great compensation. Specifically, in early 2000,
Lakes and the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec Sun Belt served the Federal Government of
signed agreements to provide unprecedented Canada with a “Notice of Intent to Submit
protection for the Great Lakes. Under the Great a Claim to Arbitration” in which it invoked
Lakes – St. Lawrence River Sustainable Water Articles 1102, 1005 and 1110 in Chapter 11
Resources Agreement, long-range diversions of NAFTA, as well as Articles 26 and 27 of the
out of the Great Lakes basin are prevented, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
although, as critics, point out, diversions within
the basin are not. An attractive feature of the This ongoing conflict, for which Sun Belt is
Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water seeking billions of dollars in lost profits and
Resources Compact is that it promotes the legal expenses, has been analyzed at different
principle of adaptive management (Section periods of time using conflict resolution
6.2) approach to water governance. techniques (Hipel et al., 2008; Obeidi and
Hipel, 2005). Clearly, this type of resources
As an illustration of how NAFTA can dispute will only increase in the future as a
exacerbate conflict over water exports, in direct result of the flawed design of NAFTA
spite of existing laws to maintain the integrity in which all of the legal power is accorded
of ecosystems, consider the Sun Belt dispute to the large corporations and the dispute
which was systematically studied by Obeidi resolution mechanism pits corporations in
and Hipel (2005) and Hipel et al. (2008a), who negative combative situations against elected
provide detailed background information governments and their citizens, rather than
and references. Briefly, in the late 1980s encouraging positive win/win resolutions,
the government of British Columbia (BC) as is done under the Boundary Waters
granted licenses to investors, including Sun Treaty of 1909 which is administered by the
Belt Corporation Inc. of California and a International Joint Commission (Section 3.2).
Canadian partner called Snowcap Water Ltd.,
to withdraw fresh water in bulk quantities Because of the aforementioned Great Lakes
because the BC government thought that the agreements, some people argue that at least
province had abundant water supplies. the water in these lakes is protected from
exploitation by large corporations at the Virtual water represents another way in which
expense of individual American and Canadian vast quantities of water are currently being
citizens living in the Great Lakes – St. diverted out of Canada. Virtual water refers to
Lawrence basin, as well as the environment. the water required in the production of a good
However, this may not be the case. As or service. For instance, the global average
explained in detail by Hipel et al. (2008) for the amount of water required to produce a
and references contained therein, although cup of coffee is 140 L and the amount for 1 kg
a private company, McCurdy Enterprises, of beef is 16,000 L (Water Footprint Network,
eventually failed to obtain permission to 2008). In fact, “seventy times more water is
export water in bulk quantities from Lake used in the production of the world’s food
Gisborne in Newfoundland, they predict that supply than is directly consumed as ‘water’ by
if the price of water rises to a sufficiently high the world’s householders” (Horbulyk, 2007).
level, a future government of Newfoundland When products are exported from a country,
and Labrador may permit the exportation of all of the water that is “embedded” in those
freshwater in large quantities. products is effectively exported out of the
country. Canada is surpassed only by the US
Because of NAFTA rules, if a commodity, in the total amount of virtual water it exports
such as water, is exported once, it can be (2003 International Year of Freshwater, 2003)
exported in the future from anywhere in through the export of such products as
Canada, including the Great Lakes which are cereal crops, livestock and oil-bearing crops
supposedly protected by other international (Chapagain et al., 2005).
agreements coupled with corresponding
state and provincial laws. 5. Water Problems Occurring
in many Regions in Canada
Ironically, given the dispute about potential A range of challenging water problems that are
water exports from Lake Gisborne in not mainly connected to one region but occur
Newfoundland, one of the authors observed across Canada are put forward in this section.
bottled water from Lake Eugenia, north of As explained in Section 5.1, groundwater
Toronto, on sale in supermarkets in St John’s resources are being utilized for drinking water,
in 2007. Bottled water has made for an agricultural, industrial and commercial purposes
enormously profitable industry, but makes in all of Canada’s political jurisdictions. In many
no economic or scientific sense, especially cases, groundwater tables are dropping where
given the fact that the per-litre retail cost the underground water reserves are over-
of the water may be up to 3,000 times that exploited and aquifers are being polluted
of standard municipal tap water available as a result human-induced reasons such as
from the faucets in the stores where the brownfields, which are created by the pollution
bottled water is sold. As is discussed further of land from industrial activities as discussed
in Section 5.4, bottled water is a means by in Section 5.3. Both ground and surface
which water is already being exported out water, as well as the atmosphere, are being
of Canada. contaminated by what are called Contaminants
of Emerging Concern (CECs) in Section 5.2. global demand, creating new and growing
Many people are concerned, for instance, pressures on the quantity and quality of
over the health effects of the vast array of new adjacent water resources — both surface
chemicals being produced by industry, such as water and groundwater.
the pharmaceutical sector, that are entering the • The presence of contaminated sites
hydrological cycle portrayed in FIG. 3. Bottled (see Section 5.3 on brownfields) and the
water is produced in most regions of Canada continuing need for remediation.
with large-scale exports to other parts of the • The growing concern for groundwater
country and to other nations, as mentioned in source protection as a consequence of
Section 5.4. Moreover, in the form of virtual some or all of the foregoing.
water, the total amount of water needed to • Threats to aquatic ecosystems and fish due
grow a crop or make a product, water is being to the low flow of streams that are fed by
exported in other ways in large, but unseen, groundwater during dry periods.
quantities. The ongoing dispute over threat of • Transboundary water challenges and the
the direct exportation of water in bulk quantities ongoing need for cooperative management
is discussed in Section 4.7. of water resources that straddle or cross
the Canada-US border.
5.1 Groundwater over-Exploitation, • The impact of climate change on the
Pollution and Restoration availability of our linked groundwater and
The following is a summary of current and surface-water resources, in addition to
emerging groundwater issues in Canada, as the increased demands placed on these
highlighted by a report from the Council of resources (Section 5.5).
Canadian Academies (CCA) (2009):
Estimates for 1995 show that groundwater
• Population growth and its increasing accounted for only a little more than 4% of
concentration in urban areas, with major total fresh-water use in Canada, but this was
implications for land-use planning and roughly double the estimated amount of
watershed protection. annual groundwater use between 1980 and
• Intensification of agriculture, resulting in 1990. The US uses vastly more groundwater
greater demands on groundwater and than Canada, even on a population-adjusted
the ever-present risk of contamination by basis (CCA, 2009).
nitrates and other residues and pathogens
(CCA has been asked by the Minister of “The primary use of groundwater in Canada
Agriculture and by Agri-Food Canada varies regionally, from municipal purposes in
to carry out a study to determine what Ontario, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick
additional science is required in order to and the Yukon, to livestock watering in
manage the water demands of agriculture Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, to
in a more sustainable manner). largely industrial purposes in British Columbia,
• Increased exploitation of hydrocarbons Québec and the Northwest Territories, and to
and other mineral resources in response to domestic wells in Newfoundland and Nova
Scotia. Within each province there is variability Paskapoo wells has dropped by 3 m in the 47
in the spatial distribution of groundwater use, years for which records are available, but it is
depending on local aquifer properties and unclear whether this reflects an actual drop (as
surface-water availability. The dependence a result of water use and drought) or because
of provincial populations on groundwater for wells are now being drilled deeper into areas at
domestic needs ranges from 100 per cent in which the water table is lower.
Prince Edward Island to about 23 per cent
in Alberta. This wide variation illustrates the Currently, contaminant levels in the Paskapoo
highly regional nature of dependence on still appear to be low, with the exception of
groundwater.” (CCA, 2009). local anthropogenic chloride concentrations.
Some 8% of private wells in Alberta exceed
Although groundwater resources have been drinking-water guidelines for bacteria, and
exploited for more than one hundred years, 92% exceed Canadian guidelines for one
little systematic information is available or more health and aesthetic parameters
regarding aquifer characteristics. The National (i.e., qualities that affect taste or odour, stain
Water Research Institute (NWRI) and the clothes, or encrust or damage plumbing)
Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) are now (CCA, 2009). Grasby (2008) estimates that to
collaborating on collecting this information, accommodate projected future population
and applying modern geological methods to growth across Alberta, a 50% reduction in
aquifer mapping and interpretation. per-capita water use will be required over the
next 50 years. Limitations on both surface and
The Paskapoo aquifer of Alberta can serve as subsurface water will be required.
a typical example of an aquifer of considerable
local and regional importance but which is The Township of Langley, near Vancouver, is
only in the last few years receiving appropriate cited as an example of a rapidly urbanizing
scientific attention. The Paskapoo is a sandstone agricultural community (its 2008 population of
formation that lies just below the surface cover 100,000 is forecasted to reach 165,000 by 2023)
of glacial sediments across much of Alberta. that has experienced substantial groundwater
Some 65,000 wells have been completed in this declines and is taking steps to reverse them
unit, making it by far the most significant source (CCA, 2009). Ongoing monitoring indicates
of groundwater in the Prairies (information in declining water levels in the more intensively
this section from Grasby et al., 2008). The unit is used aquifers, a trend that has been occurring
under substantial pressure because of increasing for nearly 40 years. The declines are not due to
population in both urban and rural parts of the changes in precipitation but are the result of
province, and because surface water rights groundwater overuse. Instituting water-demand
have now been virtually entirely allocated. The management to conserve groundwater can
aquifer is of the “unconfined” type; that is, it result in significant savings. The Township
is not covered by an impermeable layer, and estimates that meeting the goals of its proposed
therefore receives recharge over its entire water management plans would result in a 30%
area of occurrence. The average water level in reduction in overall water use with a savings
of approximately $800,000 in 2007. It is far instituted the Clean Water Act, requiring
costlier to clean up agricultural and industrial communities to develop and carry out a
contamination of groundwater than to source protection plan for their municipal
undertake measures to prevent it (CCA, 2009). water supplies (Conservation Ontario, 2009).
Some cases of groundwater contamination
in Canada are well known. The Walkerton, An emerging issue concerning both surface
Ontario, tragedy of May 2000 resulted in seven waters and groundwaters has been created
deaths and at least 2,300 individuals becoming by new methods for the exploitation of shale
seriously ill, as a result of a breakdown in the gas. Widely dispersed natural methane gas
system of testing, chlorination and monitoring. can now be extracted from “tight” non-
It was ultimately determined that agricultural porous shales by the process of “fracking”
wastes were leaking into the town’s water well, — the use of large amounts of water, sand
but routine test results were not performed and chemicals injected into the subsurface
properly and were, in any case, ignored at all under very high pressures (5,000-15,000
levels of the municipal and provincial system psi). The fracking process opens up incipient
that is supposed to be in place to prevent fractures and generates new ones in the
such occurrences (Hipel et al., 2003, for shale, vastly increasing the surface area from
references and a risk assessment). The costs of which the gas may seep into the well bore.
investigating the problem were very high, as The development of this process, which
were the costs of putting a new system requires the drilling of multiple horizontal
in place. wells, has changed the economics of natural
gas completely, with this source now already
The cost of fixing Walkerton’s water problem providing 20% of all the gas produced in the
came to $64 million, the commission to United States (IHS, 2010).
investigate the event cost approximately
$10 million, and over $65 million was paid Large reserves are predicted to be present
in compensation to victims and their families in major shale units in northeastern British
(Wellington et al., 2007; The Canadian Press, Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and New
2008; Parsons, 2002). Brunswick. Early in 2010, one of the world’s
largest fracking operations to date was
Important changes to Ontario´s water laws carried out northeast of Fort Nelson, British
came into effect as a result of the inquiry into Columbia, in the Horn River Basin, by
the Walkerton incident. In his inquiry report, Houston-based Apache Corporation and
Justice O’Connor concluded that protecting Encana, making use of some 5.6 million barrels
water at its source is a key component of a of surface water. Most of the water used in
comprehensive water management approach the fracking process water returns to the
to guard against a similar occurrence, and surface with the gas, creating the problem of
made 22 recommendations regarding source what to do with the by-now heavily polluted
protection. In order to implement these water. Reinjection into the deep, saline
recommendations, the Ontario government groundwater bodies at depths of several
kilometres is the current methodology, but refer to a complex spectrum of materials and
many questions remain concerning the organisms having potential significant impacts
future fate of such water masses. Given the on human and environmental health. The
very high pressures being used, it is possible development of better detection methods
that the polluted groundwater could rise and a better understanding of the effects
through fractures back to the surface, to of materials (both natural and human-made)
pollute shallow groundwater or surface fresh which permeate the environment have led to
water supplies. a new level of sophistication and complexity
in health concerns.
Shale gas production has been underway
for several years in Texas (Barnett Shale) and The movements and reactions of CEC
other areas of the United States, and no such materials are influenced by the physical,
incident of pollution has yet been proven, but chemical, biological and radiological systems,
opinions are currently divided regarding the and as a result these materials may undergo
overall environmental safety of the operations changes in concentration, characteristics and
(Parfitt, 2010). An exploration program being reaction capability. CECs can be grouped by
carried out by Questerre Energy in the Utica their characteristics (microbiological, organic
Shale of the St. Lawrence Valley between chemicals, inorganic chemicals, physical
Montreal and Quebec City came to a halt parameters and radiological materials)
in October 2010 in part because of vocal or by their type of impacts (oxidation-
expressions of public concern about potential reduction, acid-base, endocrine disruption,
pollution problems and possible discharge radiation, infections (microbial and prions) or
of natural gas into groundwater drinking cytotoxicity). The critical issue is what should
supplies, and in part because of a lack of be done to reduce the adverse impacts of
investment due to low gas prices brought these materials on the living and non-living
on by the flood of shale gas onto the North components of the water world. This section
American market. (McCarthy, 2010). examines some of the current issues and
technologies that have been identified in
Regulation of surface water and groundwater Canada and, in some cases, used to reduce
use for shale gas operations has typically the impacts of CECs.
been removed from provincial and state
environmental bodies and assigned to oil Types of CECs.
and gas regulators, a move that creates The general types of materials that are
cause for concern, given the overriding currently identified as being of concern to
mandate of such regulators to facilitate, water systems include components from
even promote, resource extraction. all aspects of human activities. As we
learn more about the materials present
5.2 Contaminants of Emerging and their interactions with each other and
Concern (CECs) living things, the list will grow. Table 1 lists
Contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) the general categories and subcategories
Table 1. General Categories of Contaminants of Emerging Concern
Representative Sub-
Category Some Characteristics
Category or Materials
Antibiotic resistant Resistant to one or more antibiotics
Microbiological Prions Misfolded protein molecules
Microcystins Natural and pollution driven growth of cyanobacteria
Organic Chemicals
Many classes of chemicals used by the medical profession
to reduce health problems

Hormones Human and Animal

Society Targeted Pesticides A wide variety of chemicals used to kill selected or groups
of living things

Personal Care Products Sunscreens, soaps, cleaning compounds

Fire Retardants Coatings, Sprays

Surfactants Reduce gas-liquid mass transfer

Industry Targeted
Solvents Dissolve many materials

Personal Care Products Make-ups, cleaning compounds

Gas Propellants Aerosols and vapor transport from pressurized containers

Inorganic Chemicals
Hydrogen sulfide Toxic effects, oxidizes to H2SO4

Physical Parameters Particles - Air PM10, PM2.5, lung penetration
Particles - Water Total Suspended Solids, reflection, refraction, adsorption,
entrapment of CECs

Radiation Ultraviolet light Reactions in cellular materials which may lead to changes
in actions

of CECs as well as some representative gas, liquid and solid phases of material can
characteristics. contain CECs. The transfer of a contaminant
from one phase to another results in quality
Sources of CECs. changes but does not reduce the contaminant
All aspects of municipal, industrial and load on the environment. The obvious
natural activities can release CECs into the example of this is volatilization or mass
environment. It is relevant to recognize that transfer from a liquid to a gas or vice versa.
Many studies of municipal wastewater (both The discharge of conventionally treated
raw and treated) have demonstrated that it municipal wastewater is now being shown
contains materials (dissolved, solid or gaseous) to be problematic. Kerr et al. (2008) showed
identified in virtually all of the categories that conventional biological nutrient
of CECs. In fact, virtually every human- removal activated sludge treatment effluent
made material can be found in municipal and ultra-membrane filtered effluent did not
wastewater. As an example, a survey in Alberta reduce exposure to xenobiotics. However,
identified 105 pharmaceuticals, hormones and additional treatment with activated carbon
endocrine disrupting compounds (EDC) in did reduce most xenobiotics.
raw wastewater and 48 in treated effluent. A
similar study in Ontario found similar results Various other studies have been carried out
(Servos et al., 2005). Such surveys have been investigating the effects of the different types
conducted around the world and all indicate of CECs found in Canada’s water. A 2005-
that municipal wastewater carries all forms 2006 survey detected trace levels of certain
of CECs. Although the principal objective pharmaceuticals and BPA (Bisphenol A) in
of wastewater treatment is to remove all Ontario’s untreated source water and finished
contaminants from the raw wastewater, in drinking water sampled from various sources,
reality only a few characteristic parameters are but these are currently at levels that do not
reduced. pose a threat to human health (Ontario
Ministry of the Environment, 2006). Another
Impacts. study found that exposing fish to estrogen at
Microorganisms are both allies and enemies levels similar to those found in many municipal
of living things. Acaryotic (viruses), prokaryotic wastewater effluents in Canada reduced
(bacteria and cyanobacteria), and eukaryotic egg production and male secondary sex
(including the protists (algae, fungi and characteristics (Parrott and Blunt, 2005). An
protoza)) and the metazoan (rotifers, investigation was conducted into the effect
nematodes) can have positive and negative of commonly used agricultural pesticides on
relationships to other living things. Novel northern prairie wetlands, which found there
issues develop when humans introduce to be no significant impact on the health of
materials into the environment that accelerate the water itself but these pesticides still pose
changes in the microorganisms and, in some a threat to aquatic life found in these wetlands
cases, make them more dangerous. (Johnson, 1986). Further CECs studies have
been carried out regarding various types of
With respect to pharmaceuticals, the industry pathogens in wastewater (Andersen, 1993;
is continuously working to make them more Bell et al., 1983; Finch and Smith, 1986) and
resistant to degradation so that they will do waterborne disease (Neumann et al., 2005).
their intended “jobs” better. As a result, it
can be expected that their occurrence in Management of CECs.
wastewater and the difficulty of their removal How can one manage the CEC materials? The
will increase. answer is relatively simple: a multi-component
program is required. First, there must be 362,000 (NRTEE, 2003). Canada may possess
legislation and the related regulations with up to 30,000 brownfields, including the sites of
enforcement support to prevent production almost-forgotten industrial enterprises such as
where possible, reduce discharge, and coal gasification plants, locations where toxic
educate people with respect to proper substances were used or stored, and former
handling procedures. gas stations and mining operations (De Sousa,
2001). Brownfields currently being created on a
Control of CECs requires at least three large scale include the oil sands development in
simultaneous types of actions: a) stop the Canada (Section 4.3) and the rapidly expanding
creation of CECs; b) control the disposal industrial sites in China and India for which
of CECs, and c) destroy or change them massive economic growth is of paramount
into non-dangerous materials. All three importance at the expense of extensive
approaches require very important action environmental degradation. By definition,
at the government level – the enactment of brownfields almost always result in the
legislation and regulations to empower each contamination of ground and/or surface water
type of enforcement. resources, and sometimes the atmosphere.

5.3 Brownfields Brownfield redevelopment consists of two

The Environmental Protection Agency main stages: remediation of the contaminated
defines brownfield sites as “real property, the land and subsequent utilization of the site
expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which for a range of development purposes such
may be complicated by the presence or as the building of commercial, educational
potential presence of a hazardous substance, and residential facilities. Fortunately, the
pollutant, or contaminant” (US EPA, 2005). restoration of brownfield sites furnishes a
In Canada, the National Roundtable on the variety of economic, social, and environmental
Environment and the Economy (NRTEE, benefits to stakeholders (NRTEE, 2003).
2003) states that “Brownfields are the legacy From an economic perspective, brownfield
of a century of industrialization − they are redevelopment has a total output multiplier
abandoned, idle or underutilized commercial of 3.8 (NRTEE, 2003) and provides economic
or industrial properties where past actions have benefits which include the development
caused known or suspected environmental of exportable restoration technologies,
contamination, but where there is an active provision of an expanded tax base for all levels
potential for redevelopment”. In fact, of government, and creation of employment
brownfields exist in very large numbers and opportunities. From a social viewpoint,
pose serious environmental and health risks brownfield restoration can enhance quality of
in industrialized countries around the world. life, eliminate health threats, and furnish land
for affordable housing. Finally, environmental
For instance, the United States is thought benefits of brownfield restoration include
to contain between 500,000 and 1,000,000 restoration of environmental quality,
brownfield locations while Germany about prevention of the further contamination
of water supplies for municipalities, and are currently funding a controversial project
reduction of expansion pressure from to solidify and stabilize the contaminants by
urban centers into surrounding greenfields. mixing the material with concrete, which is
Within Canada, many municipalities have scheduled for completion in 2014 (Top 100:
ambitious brownfield programs for enticing Canada’s Biggest Infrastructure Projects, 2009).
land owners and developers to restore and
develop brownfields, with both economic 5.4 Bottled Water
and legislative support from their provincial The bottled water industry represents a
governments. Bernath Walker et al. (2010), for triumph of commercial promotion over
example, carry out a strategic analysis of the common sense. Municipal tap water in most
successful negotiations that took place over of the developed world is processed to a
the over the renovation of the former Kaufman high state of purity and taste, and is entirely
Footwear manufacturing facility in downtown acceptable for human consumption. However,
Kitchener, Ontario, into residential lofts at almost a third of Canadian households have
this former brownfield site. Hipel et al. (2010) been persuaded otherwise by the advertising
present a systems methodology for resolving for bottled water (Sandford, 2007; Lem, 2008).
both the strategic and tactical aspects of In fact, testing standards for bottled water
complex brownfield conflicts and stress the are lax and erratic. Bottled water is regulated
role that positive attitudes can play in reaching at the federal level by Health Canada and
win/win outcomes for the stakeholders. the Canadian Food Inspection Agency,
and provinces and territories can impose
An especially contentious brownfield conflict additional regulations (Health Canada, 2009).
in Canada has been over the tar ponds in Whereas the quality of Canadian municipal
Sydney, Nova Scotia. The tar ponds are one water is monitored daily, bottled water is only
of the most toxic sites in Canada, resulting tested every three years (CBC News, 2008).
from a century of steel and coke production. Moreover, bottled water companies are not
Contaminants from the production polluted required to share their water test results with
the soil on the site and were carried by a the public (CTV News, 2006). Additionally,
stream into two large pools of sludge, which unlike municipal water in Canada, most
now contain 700 thousand tonnes of chemicals brands of bottled water do not contain
including PCBs (CBC News, 2004). Reports of fluoride, a proven agent for the prevention of
deleterious effects of the tar ponds by nearby tooth decay (CBC News, 2008).
residents and environmental groups have
been repeatedly dismissed by government- Canadian researchers have found that some
sponsored investigations, but a 2003 study bottled water in Canada contains harmful
found there to be an exceptionally high levels of bacteria. However, Health Canada
cancer rate in the surrounding communities. has not set an allowable bacteria-level limit
Two failed attempts have been made to clean for bottled water (Cross, 2010). The plastic
up the site in the past 20 years (CBC News, used for bottled water represents a significant
2007). The federal and provincial governments use of petrochemical feedstock. Although
bottled water containers are recyclable, a evaluated, and they are charged very little
large proportion of used containers end up in for this water (Barlow, 2007). There have
landfills, as much as 80% in some communities been reports of water shortages in the Great
(Council of Canadians, 2008). Consequently, Lakes region close to water bottling plants,
disposal of the bottles has become a major according to the Earth Policy Institute (Council
issue, with some jurisdictions (e.g., London, of Canadians, 2008).
Ontario) reporting a significant increase in
volume, coupled with a reduction in weight, of On account of the foregoing issues with
city garbage, as a result of the huge increase bottled water, there has been a growing
in waste bottles. A visit to any North American movement in Canada against bottled water.
or European coastline will reveal numbers of Thirty municipalities from 7 provinces have
bottles washed up on the beach – another taken significant actions against bottled
serious sign of unmanaged waste. Moreover, water, such as banning the sale of it at
the production and transportation of bottled municipal facilities, and 21 universities and
water uses vast amounts of fossil fuels and colleges have created “bottled water free
water, and produces significant amounts of zones” (Polaris Institute, 2009).
greenhouse gases. The Pacific Institute has
estimated that the bottled water produced 5.5 Climate Change
worldwide in 2006 for American consumers Kathy Jacobs, Executive Director of the
required more than 17 million barrels of oil Arizona Water Institute, has referred to water
(not including transportation energy), which as “the delivery mechanism for the impacts of
produced more than 2.5 million tons of CO2, climate change”. That is, the effects of climate
and that every litre of bottled water required change will be most readily experienced
3 L of water for its production. through changes in water (Brubaker, 2009).
Below is a short description of the impending
Due to loopholes in Canadian law, bottled challenges and opportunities posed by
water is a means by which water is being climate change with respect to water for the
exported out of the country. Since water is different regions of Canada, followed by a
regarded as a commodity when it has been brief explanation of actions that can be taken
bottled and bulk water bans only apply to to address this issue.
containers greater than 20 L, there is no
limit to the amount of bottled water that The effects of climate change in Canada have
can be exported out of Canada (Rinehart, thus far been most dramatically apparent in
2007). Consequently, Canada has become the Arctic, and polar regions of the world
a net exporter of bottled water, with the are forecasted to undergo the most extreme
profits largely going to foreign-owned, multi- weather pattern disruptions in the future
national water companies. These companies (McCarthy, 2010). The melting of Arctic sea
are threatening entire watersheds in Canada ice has greatly accelerated in the past decade.
by their extraction of water from springs Approximately 2 million km2 of sea ice melted
and aquifers that have not been properly from 2000 to 2010, compared with a loss of less
than 1 million km2 in the previous two decades hydroelectric generation stands to either
(Simpson, 2010). In fact, the Canadian Arctic benefit or suffer from climate change.
experienced its lowest recorded summer ice Additional water in northern Quebec and in
extent in 2010 (McCarthy, 2010). The ice cover Labrador may boost the electrical generation
is also thinning (NRCan, 2007). The opening of of the James Bay Project and the Churchill
the Arctic sea will allow greater opportunities Falls Station, respectively, but these gains
for shipping and tourism, but will disrupt the may be offset on account of the lower flow
ecology of the region (Canadian Geographic, of the St. Lawrence River, which would affect
2010a). Furthermore, as warming causes Arctic the Beauharnois and the Les Cèdres power
permafrost to melt, drinking water and sewage plants dependent on this source (Bruce et al.,
lines will become ruptured (NRCan, 2007). 2000). The lowering of the water levels of the
Another result of permafrost degradation that St. Lawrence would also impact navigation,
is already being experienced is the loss of vast marinas, municipal water supplies, wetlands
areas of boreal forest, the importance of which and fisheries (Tar Sands Watch, 2008).
was discussed in Section 4.3.
The water levels of the Great Lakes (Section
Another consequence of climate change is 4.5), which are surrounded by 40 million
the increased frequency of high-intensity people, have been predicted to decrease
precipation which can wash nutrients, toxins by 24% in the event of a 2 to 4% increase
and pathogens into water bodies as well as in temperature (Tar Sands Watch, 2008),
cause flash floods in small watersheds and although a recent study by the IJC found that
urban areas. In Atlantic Canada, an increase there may be a more modest drop in water
in the number and intensity of storms, in levels (Kart, 2010). Moreover, historical data
combination with elevated sea levels, is show significant fluctuations in lake levels
expected to cause flooding and erosion over decadal periods, indicating that natural
along coastal areas and rivers (Richardson, regional climate oscillations are also likely an
2010; Bruce et al., 2000), which may lead important factor in environmental change
to the spread of waterborne pathogens and (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2007).
saltwater intrusion into groundwater aquifers
(NRCan, 2007). Moreover, the loss of ice cover A significant reduction in water levels would
may make coastal regions more susceptible place stresses on navigation, municipal water
to erosion (Canadian Geographic, 2010a). supplies, hydroelectric generation, recreation
and ecosystems (NRCan, 2007). Furthermore,
Riverine flooding due to increased precipitation the combined effects of reduced water levels
and loss of ice is also a major concern for and increased demand in the Great Lakes, as
Quebec. This may result in sewer overflows, well as in other regions throughout southern
which can contaminate municipal water supply Canada, by 2050 will “evoke conflicts among
systems (Bruce et al., 2000). As discussed in water users and place strains on boundary and
Section 4.6, hydroelectricity is the dominant transboundary water agreements” (Canadian
form of electrical power in Quebec. Quebec’s Geographic, 2010a). A reduction in water
quantity also entails a reduction in water needed for improving Canada’s present
quality, as pollutants will be more concentrated situation. They recommend the following
and settled (NRCan, 2007). Additionally, courses of action for adapting to climate
Great Lakes ice cover has shown a declining change: creating a national strategy for water
trend over the past thirty years, which causes resources and climate change; establishing
greater evaporation and thus lower lake levels a mechanism for inter-agency coordination
and also has other economic and ecological at the federal level, as well as a mechanism
implications (International Upper Great Lakes for federal-provincial and multi-stakeholder
Study, 2009; Wang et al., 2009). coordination, to facilitate the development
and implementation of the strategy;
Climate change issues affecting the Prairie implementing further research to guide
Provinces have been discussed in Sections the strategy; enlisting the collaboration of
4.1 and 4.2. Land at risk of desertification existing agencies in developing the strategy;
in the Prairies is expected to increase by and organizing a national conference on
50% by 2050 and the frequency of droughts water resources and climate change to
lasting four to six months could double raise awareness and set the agenda for the
(Canadian Geographic, 2010a). On the other strategy. The National Research Council of
hand, there is the prospect that arable land the National Academy of Sciences (2010a, b,
will expand northward (Bruce et al., 2000). c, d) has likewise put forward national climate
Similar to the Atlantic Provinces, British strategies for the US.
Columbia faces the threat of more frequent
high-intensity rains and coastal and riverine There has been some degree of progress
flooding, potentially leading to waterborne amongst Canada’s politicians in taking
health effects and saltwater intrusions into steps towards addressing the effects of
water supplies (Richardson, 2010; NRCan, climate change. For instance, progress
2007). River flows will become lower in was made during the 2010 meeting of the
southern British Columbia, placing strains on premiers of the provinces and territories
agriculture and municipal water supplies, but in Western and Northern Canada at the
somewhat greater flows are expected in the annual Western Premiers’ Conference on
north (Bruce et al., 2000). June 15th and 16th. During the first day of
the conference, the leaders discussed the
In light of the impending drastic changes to significance of climate change and its impact
Canada brought about by climate change, on water resources, agreeing to a Water
Bruce et al. (2000) urge the country’s leaders Charter making protection of this resource
to act now to prepare for this inevitability, as a priority (Crawford, 2010). However,
it may be much more costly and less effective Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the
to react to the challenges as they arise Council of Canadians, is of the persuasion
at the last moment rather than preparing shared by many others, that political leaders
beforehand and the necessary adaptations cannot be counted on to carry out the
for dealing with climate change are also substantial undertakings that are necessary
for adapting to climate change unless there 6.2 to implement the range of water
exists a widespread public movement in this policy recommendations put forward in
direction. Accordingly, scientists have the Sections 6.3.1 and 6.3.2 for enhancing
responsibility of conveying the implications of water governance within Canada and
climate change to the public in an effective internationally, respectively. A good place to
manner (CBC Ideas, 2010). Homer-Dixon start is to develop a comprehensive national
(2006) believes that catastrophes connected water policy in cooperation with the ten
to climate change are needed to spur society provincial and three territorial governments,
to take meaningful mitigative action to while simultaneously encouraging other
significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions water initiatives for solving pressing
and adapt to the effects of climate change. problems. The time to begin was yesterday.

In fact, geoengineering, which consists of 6.1 Opportunity for Meaningful Change

utilizing carbon dioxide removal and solar As illustrated in Section 4, Canada faces
radiation management technologies for a wide range of daunting regional water
intentionally altering the climate system on challenges stretching from British Columbia
a large scale, may be required to stave off eastwards to the Atlantic border northwards
severe climate change (Blackstock and Long, to the Arctic. Moreover, as explained in
2010). Homer-Dixon (2009) has referred to Section 5, common types of formidable
this dramatic geoengineering intervention water problems exist within many regions of
process as “Plan Z”. Clearly, climate change Canada. Over the years, Canada has certainly
will have adverse impacts on the hydrological established an enviable record in many
cycle depicted in FIG. 3. The failure to respond areas of water resources management. For
responsibly to climate change challenges instance, virtually every community across
has ethical and moral implications (Gardiner, the entire country has access to clean water,
2011). Implementation of climate change although small aboriginal communities are a
strategies may take place at the municipal notable exception to this accomplishment.
(Richardson, 2010) and basin levels (Section The federal government recently introduced
3.3), but effective policies are also required a regulation mandating minimum sewage
at the provincial, national (Section 3.1) and treatment standards on every wastewater
international levels (Sections 3.2 and 3.5). facility in Canada. Municipalities will be given
10 to 30 years to comply, however, but this is
6. Recommendations for Alleviating at least a step in the right direction (Weston,
Canada’s Strategic Water Problems 2010). On November 30, 2010, the Ontario
As explained in Section 6.1, Canada has a Legislature passed the Water Opportunities
timely opportunity to display real leadership and Water Conservation Act, which aims to
with respect to pursuing meaningful make the province a leader in clean water
innovations in water governance. In services and technologies via the joint effort of
particular, Canada can adopt the systems- industry, academics and government, as well
thinking approach described in Section as to support its citizens in using water more
efficiently and to facilitate more sustainable is employed within an overall system of
municipal water planning (Business Wire, systems framework. Subsequently, within
2010). In many parts of the country, good the realm of a system of systems philosophy,
water governance exists at the basin level. specific recommendations are formulated in
For instance, as pointed out in Section 3.9, Section 6.3 for enhancing water governance
under the Quebec Water Policy adopted in at all levels of government within Canada as
November 2002, basin organizations were well as in the international arena.
established for 33 major watercourses to
promote sustainable development via an 6.2 Systems Thinking in
integrated water resources management Water Governance
approach. As noted in Sections 3.3 and The world in which we live consists of complex
4.5, Canada and the United States have highly interconnected systems of systems (SoS).
cooperated in better managing the valuable Examples of societal SoS include economical,
water resources of the Great Lakes through the political, agricultural, industrial, infrastructure,
Boundary Water Treaty of 1909 and extensions and urban SoS. Illustrations of environmental
thereof. Nonetheless, much remains to be SoS are hydrological (FIG. 3), atmospheric,
done to enhance water governance within botanical, zoological, ecological and geological
Canada and internationally, especially with SoS. In fact, most of today’s pressing large-scale
the United States. problems facing humanity, such as scarcity of
freshwater, global warming, energy shortages,
The world is currently experiencing a overpopulation, widespread pollution, the
range of highly interconnected crises. In food crisis and economic disparities, can best
the midst of the worst recession since the be envisioned and understood as complex
Great Depression of the 1930s, climate adaptive systems problems which are tightly
change, overpopulation, overconsumption interconnected and thereby affect one another
and other associated factors, are putting in synergetic and often unexpected ways,
enormous pressure on the availability of referred to as emergent properties (Homer-
freshwater supplies to meet human needs Dixon, 2006; Hipel and Fang, 2005; Hipel et al.,
in a sustainable manner (Brown, 2011). 2008b, 2009).
By altering climate, FIG. 3 shows how
the water cycle can be adversely affected For instance, global warming can cause
by greenhouse gas emissions. However, climate change which may create water
difficult times provide fertile soil for shortages, which in turn adversely affect the
growing rich crops of real and meaningful economy and people’s welfare via decreased
change. In the next section, the solid agricultural and industrial productivity.
foundations upon which effective water Accordingly, water governance within Canada
governance can be based are described. In and abroad must be founded upon the basic
particular, a system thinking methodology paradigm of SoS thinking in order to meet
for water governance is proposed in which key systems principles such as resilience,
an integrative and adaptive approach sustainability and fairness (Hipel et al., 2008a,
b, 2009; Simonovic, 2009, 2011). Of course, with policy, laws and regulations at the
appropriate ideas from economics, sociology, local, regional, provincial or state, national
the humanities, science, engineering and and international levels. For example, the
mathematics may be utilized within this International Joint Commission (2009)
overall SoS framework for serving society and (Section 3.2) has suggested an integrated
preserving the environment. approach to river basin management for
basins that are intersected by the Canada-
Fortunately, researchers and practitioners US border. In its Managua Declaration,
working within the field of water resources IANAS (2009) declared that all countries in
are pioneers in the development and North and South America “should improve
application of systems thinking for addressing the way in which water is managed in order
complex water problems. Two important to perform it in a more integrated and
and interrelated concepts required for sustainable way”.
achieving effective water governance within
a SoS framework are integrative and adaptive Besides being integrative, water governance
management. As defined in “A handbook for must be adaptive in order to handle
Integrated Water Resources Management in the largely unpredictable behaviour of
Basins” published in 2009 by the Global Water environmental and societal SoS brought
Partnership (GWP) and International Network about by their intrinsic complexity,
of Basin Organizations (INBO) (2009), “The uncertainty and interconnectedness. Because
integrated water resources management of this unpredictability, one never knows in
approach helps to manage and develop advance how well a given plan or policy is
water resources in a sustainable and balanced going to work for appropriately addressing
way, taking account of social, economic anticipated or unexpected events. Under
and environmental interests. It recognizes passive adaptive management, one employs
the many different and competing interest new knowledge gained by monitoring and
groups, the sectors that use and abuse water, experience to iteratively update models
and the needs of the environment”. or plans to improve existing management
Notice that this systems thinking approach to approaches and associated decision making.
water resources management acknowledges When pursuing active adaptive management,
that many interconnected factors must be plans or strategies are purposefully altered in
considered and that the value systems of order to scientifically test new hypotheses,
competing stakeholders and environmental and thereby learn by experimentation to
requirements must be taken into account. ascertain the best management strategy.
Accordingly, adaptive management is
Furthermore, because of the physical reality popularly referred to as “learning by doing”.
that a watershed controls the flow of water, The concept of adaptive management was
the most important management practices originally proposed by Holling (1978) and
must be implemented at the basin level other scientists as a consequence of studying
(Section 3.3 and (FIG. 3) in consonance resiliency theories of ecological systems,
and since that time a rich body of literature and contain a dispute resolution mechanism
has accumulated including contributions by that guides disputants in a positive direction
Walters (1986), National Research Council towards a win/win resolution. Using concepts
(2004), Noble (2004), Gunderson and Holling from hydrology, economics, cooperative
(2002), Gunderson and Light (2006), American game theory and ethics, formal methods
Water Resources Association (2006, 2009), have been developed for fairly allocating
Williams et al. (2007) and Heathcote (2010). water among competing uses in a river basin
(Wang et al., 2008). When made available as
In practice, one can employ both integrated decision support systems, decision aides from
and adaptive management approaches in the systems sciences permit practitioners to
water governance, as is recommended by tackle complex real world problems arising in
many of the organizations and research water governance and elsewhere.
groups whose websites are listed at the end
of this report. In fact, ideas from adaptive 6.3 Specific Recommendations for
management are contained within the Enhanced Water Governance in
aforementioned handbook on integrative Canada and at the International Level
water resources management (GWP and Water scarcity is usually caused by the
INBO, 2009). This valuable handbook ineffective management of water rather than
presents detailed explanations as to how by lack of availability alone. Accordingly, the
integrated water resources management prevailing global water crisis is more akin to a
can be actually implemented and uses case “crisis of governance” than a “pure resource
studies from around the globe to illustrate crisis” (Ng and Felder, 2010; Saleth, 2010).
how this is done according to key issues such As stated in the Freshwater Declaration of
as financing, stakeholder investment, and Pugwash (2008), “strong and enlightened
basin information systems and monitoring. governance” is required in order to have
healthy, functioning freshwater ecosystems.
As mentioned in Section 4.5, the adoption of Particular ways in which Canada should
adaptive management is encouraged within “get its own house in order” with respect
the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin to water governance and associated issues,
Water Resources Compact of December 13, are presented in the next subsection.
2005. Hipel et al. (2008b, 2009) recommend Subsequently, specific suggestions are put
that adaptive integrative management be forward as to how Canada should enhance
conducted within a SoS framework coupled and expand international agreements with
with the employment of formal decision- other countries that are in consonance with
making tool, from operational research, Canadian values and objectives in a range of
systems engineering and other systems interconnected issues which includes water
science fields, as well as ideas from the governance. Finally, over the years, numerous
social sciences and humanities. Moreover, authors and organizations have put forward
any policy or agreement should reflect the suggestions for improving water governance
value systems of the stakeholders it serves in Canada and elsewhere. For example,
many of the authors of papers listed in the Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA)
reference section, such as Bruce and Mitchell (de Loë, 2008). An overarching water strategy
(1995) and de Loë (2009), as well as most of would provide numerous benefits to Canada,
the organizations whose websites are given such as increased effectiveness, efficiency
in Section 7.1, have proposed a rich range of and consistency in water management and
water policy recommendations. As would be responses to national water concerns, and
expected, many of these suggestions overlap would be in line with the path taken by other
with those given below. jurisdictions, such as Brazil, Australia, South
Africa and the European Union (de Loë,
6.3.1 Water Governance Enhancements 2008). The establishment of a national water
within Canada policy need not entail the oversight of a large,
Recommendation 1. Systems Philosophy: All centralized bureaucracy, but should rather
levels of government in Canada should adopt be integrated within existing structures and
an adaptive, integrative and participatory should be applied strategically to only those
approach to water governance within the areas in which Canada would stand to benefit
framework of the paradigm of a system of from joint actions of the various jurisdictions
systems as the foundation upon which they throughout the country (de Loë, 2009).
will improve and expand water governance
which includes policy, laws, agreements, Recommendation 3. Governance Structures:
compliance, institutions and management. Develop policy and other associated
governance structures for fairly and effectively
As noted in Section 3.2, the Federal Water sharing water among competing users within
Policy was tabled in 1987. To overcome the a water basin.
drawback inherent in this policy as well as the
realities of changes that have taken place since Comments: Fairness in water governance is of
1987, the next recommendation is proposed. high importance in regions of Canada where
droughts and associated water shortages
Recommendation 2. National Water Policy: occur such as in the Prairie Provinces, as
In consultation with all levels of government discussed in Section 4.2. Some systems
and key stakeholders, Canada should develop approaches have been developed for
a comprehensive national water policy that addressing the perplexing problem of fair
reflects the values of Canadians and is in allocation of resources. In particular, based
consonance with the legislative power of on concepts from hydrology, economics and
all levels of government and follows the cooperative game theory, Wang et al. (2008)
philosophy of Recommendation 1. developed the Cooperative Water Allocation
Model (CWAM) within the framework of a
Comments: Various Canadian organizations large-scale optimization program for equitably
have put forward this recommendation, allocating water following two main steps.
including Pollution Probe (2007), Pugwash Firstly, water is allocated among users based
(2008), Gordon Water Group (2008) and the on existing legal water rights regimes or
agreements. Secondly, water and associated programs within key water sources (major
benefits are reallocated among stakeholders rivers and lakes), and continue and expand
to maximize basin-wide welfare. CWAM has the application of modern hydrological,
been applied to the South Saskatchewan River hydrogeogical and geological analysis of
Basin in Alberta to demonstrate how it can groundwater systems. Developing databases
be conveniently applied to a water allocation utilizing the concepts and methods of modern
system of systems problem. Geographic Information Systems would vastly
increase the efficiency and utility of this work.
Bakker (2007) points out that there exists a great
diversity of approaches to water governance Comments: In Canada, there needs to be
in municipalities throughout Canada, and that much better coordination of monitoring and
other countries have adopted a combination of regulation between the provinces and the
different models. A factor of key importance in federal government. Legislative mandates
choosing a form of water governance is for the that partially overlap, including those for
public to be well informed and to be afforded regulating water use, the transport and
a robust participation in the process (Horbulyk, deposition of deleterious substances, and
2007; Christensen and Lintner, 2007). the health of fisheries, should not be a barrier
to the development of shared management
The extraction, use and disposal of surface practices and licensing procedures.
waters and groundwaters by the energy
industries (in particular, shale gas and oil sands) Recommendation 6. Canadian Greenhouse
should not be left to the management of oil Gas Reductions: Canada should immediately
and gas regulators, but subject to appropriate put in place meaningful greenhouse gas
environmental oversight. Minimum in-flow reductions in cooperation with the provincial
needs and pollution issues have received very and territorial governments.
inadequate management in Canada because
of the inaction of both provincial and federal Comments: Canada should be imaginative in
authorities to make these issues a priority. For putting together greenhouse gas reduction
these and other reasons an energy strategy of programs. For instance, it could assist
Canada is given as Recommendation 7 below. Alberta in reducing greenhouse gas releases
in the oil sands by promoting the building of
Recommendation 4. Water Use Efficiency: new Canadian-Designed Advanced CANDU
Enhance and promote efficiencies in water Nuclear Reactors to supply energy to the oil
use by the introduction of new industrial, sands industry. The construction of CANDU
agricultural and domestic technologies. reactors to service energy market demands
Realistic pricing of water supplies would help in other parts of Canada and abroad would
to enhance efficiencies. be a clever way for Canada to use its well-
established nuclear industry for environmental
Recommendation 5. Monitoring and Analysis: protection and furnishing jobs and wealth for
Expand and enhance analysis and monitoring Canadians (Hipel and Bowman, 2011). In fact,
the strong interconnections among energy, and processed within Canada such that
the environment, water, the economy and these extensive “value-added” economic
society lead to the next recommendation. activities create real wealth and meaningful
employment for Canadians. For example,
Recommendation 7. Energy Strategy for as pointed out in Section 4.3, 30% of
Canada: The Federal Government of Canada unprocessed bitumen is being shipped
should develop a comprehensive national outside of Canada for upgrading and this
energy policy, based on sound systems figure could rise to 50% by 2019.
principles, in collaboration with provincial,
territorial and First Nations governments, as This type of gross mismanagement should
well as industrial, agricultural, environmental not be tolerated by Albertans, in particular, or
and other appropriate stakeholders. by Canadians, in general. The full processing
of bitumen to produce a rich range of oil
Comments: A sound energy strategy is a products should be done by refineries located
necessary condition for having effective within Canada for selling to both domestic and
environmental and water policies (Miall, 2011). foreign markets. A valuable spinoff of keeping
Because of its massive energy resources and all aspects of oil production within Canada
well-established expertise in many energy could be the development of home-grown
fields, Canada is in a particularly strong environmental technologies to minimize the
position to positively influence governance of pollution of surface water, aquifers and the
water and the environment both at home and atmosphere. In addition, fewer pipelines
abroad via the development of a bold and would be needed for shipping relatively large
integrative energy strategy. On numerous quantities of unprocessed bitumen to the
occasions, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen United States, thereby reducing the risk of
Harper has stated the Canada is an ‘emerging pipeline breaks such as the ones that have
energy superpower’. To realize this vision, recently occurred in Little Buffalo, Alberta
however, Canada must manage energy as (May 2011) (Wingrove, 2011) and in Michigan,
an integrated system, not as the isolated USA (July 2010) (Reuters, 2010).
development of specific energy sources.
Canada needs to have a national energy Fortunately, responsible and innovative
strategy that straddles the full spectrum of roadmaps charting the ways by which
nuclear, fossil fuel and renewable resources. Canada could become a sustainable energy
To be a sustainable energy superpower, none superpower have already been documented
of these ‘legs’ can be neglected. Additionally, and further investigations are underway. In
the electric power produced from these particular, within the Energy Pathways Project
resources should be interconnected across of the Canadian Academy of Engineering,
the nation (Hipel and Bowman, 2011). Canada´s foremost engineers have evaluated
All of Canada’s energy resources, not to a wide range of energy scenarios for Canada
mention its other vast array of natural according to technological, environmental,
resources, should be fully developed social and economic criteria (Bowman and
Griesback, 2009; Bowman et al., 2009, website agreement with all the nations of the world to
of the Canadian Academy of Engineering dramatically reduce greenhouse gas releases.
listed in Section 7). Under the Trottier Energy However, this should be done within the
Futures Project (sponsored by the Trottier context of an integrative agreement on the
Family Foundation), the Canadian Academy of control and management of air pollution in
Engineering and the David Suzuki Foundation general based on a sound systems philosophy
are jointly investigating energy challenges for (Recommendation 1 and Section 6.2).
Canada in the 21st century in terms of supply,
environmental sustainability, climate change Comments: These negotiations may constitute
and economics (websites for the Canadian a continuation of the Copenhagen process or
Academy of Engineering and the Trottier a fresh track of negotiations. The resulting
Energy Futures Project listed in Section 7.1). In treaty would help to maintain the integrity of
2003, the Royal Society of Canada held a one- the hydrological cycle in Figure FIG. 3. The
day symposium entitled “Energy, Environment terms of the treaty should be based upon solid
and Society: Making Choices” under the systems principles. As pointed out by Hansen
leadership of A. Miall. Progress on energy (2009), for example, a range of “climate
research and implementation of technologies forcings” created by human activities can
across Canada has been tabulated by the increase the global temperature, while others
Canadian Academy of Engineering (Bowman can lower atmospheric temperatures.
and Albion, 2009).
Accordingly, an innovative treaty can cleverly
6.3.2 Water Governance Improvements manage these forcings brought about by
at the International Level industrial, agricultural and other human
Recommendation 8. Responsible International enterprises to reduce temperature. For
Economic Agreement: Canada should instance, in the short term, the treaty could
negotiate an international economic agreement cut back on the release of black soot, methane
that prioritizes the maintenance of a healthy and ozone close to ground level to lessen
environment, societal well-being and the rights temperature in order to allow more time for
of individuals within a sustainable development carbon dioxide releases to be cut back over
structure and adhering to the systems principles time. Moreover, the reduction of air pollutants
of Recommendation 1 of Section 6.3.1. that cause temperature to decrease via
reflective aerosols and aerosol cloud changes
Comments: This comprehensive agreement could be curtailed until temperature-increasing
may consist of radically revised WTO and air pollutants are brought under control.
NAFTA agreements or a completely new
encompassing agreement (Section 3.5). Additionally, because this air pollution treaty
would be integrative and adaptive, appropriate
Recommendation 9. Greenhouse Gas Emissions measures could be taken over time as dictated
Agreement: Canada should immediately by scientific evidence and in response to
negotiate a meaningful greenhouse gas unexpected emergent behaviour of the
atmosphere and perhaps also the oceans. In and practice of water is highly interdisciplinary
other words, society is responsible for initiating and water experts can be found in almost all
actions to deal with the situations as they occur faculties at universities.
and reduce and manage negative impacts
that may develop. Finally, the “precautionary For this reason, researchers and practitioners
principle” (SEHN, 1998) could be adhered to working in the water field were among the
until sufficient data and scientific knowledge first people outside of the military to adopt
are available (Section 4.7 for a discussion of and expand the employment of a systems-
the precautionary principle with respect to thinking approach (Section 6.2) to address
bulk water exports and water diversions). For tough water problems using systems tools
example, greenhouse gas reductions should created initially in the fields of operational
be pursued within a treaty until sound scientific research and systems engineering during and
evidence dictates otherwise. If, for instance, after World War II (Hipel et al., 2008a, b). Very
temperature starts to spiral out of control, unfortunately, over the past three decades
the treaty should have provisions for the all levels of government in Canada have
responsible employment of geoengineering generally cut back on the amount of resources
techniques (Section 4.5, as well as Homer- devoted to water and the environment within
Dixon [2009], and Blackstock and Long [2010] governmental agencies, although useful
and references contained therein). material may be found at some websites.
Informative websites, mainly created in
Recommendation 10. Global Water Treaty: Canada, where one can find excellent
Canada should lead the world in drawing information and research results involving
up a comprehensive international treaty for topics connected to water are listed in Section
freshwater following the systems ideas of 8. Because of the enormity of research
Recommendation 1 of Section 6.3.1. regarding water carried out in Canada, only a
representative list of references are furnished
Comments: This treaty may be done in in Section 6.2 as background material to the
conjunction or parallel with Recommendations topics covered in this report.
8 and 9. Since freshwater is less of an
interconnected global resource than the 1. 2010 Annual Conference of the McGill
atmosphere, this treaty may be even more Institute for the Study of Canada:
difficult to achieve than a greenhouse gas “Canadian Water: Towards a New
emissions agreement. Strategy,” http://www.mcgill.ca/
7. Websites 2. Alberta WaterSMART, http://www.
Most of Canada’s universities have significant albertawatersmart.com/index.html
programs in the teaching and execution of 3. Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE),
research in water resources. Because one http://www.acad-eng-gen.ca/e/home_.cfm
must consider both the societal and physical 4. Canadian Council of Ministers of the
systems aspects of water resources, the theory Environment (CCME), http://www.ccme.ca/
5. Canadian Water Network (CWN), http:// School of Global Affairs, http://powi.ca/
www.cwn-rce.ca/ 25. Pugwash, http://www.pugwash.org/
6. Canadian Water Resources Association 26. RBC Bluewater Project, http://bluewater.
(CWRA), http://www.cwra.org/ rbc.com/
7. Centre for International Governance 27. Rosenberg International Forum on Water
Innovation (CIGI), http://www.cigionline. Policy, http://rosenberg.ucanr.org/
org/ 28. Royal Society of Canada, http://www.rsc.ca/
8. Conflict Analysis Group, http://www. 29. Trottier Energy Futures Project (Projet
systems.uwaterloo.ca/Research/CAG/ Trottier pour l’Avenir Énergétique),
9. Council of Canadians, http://www. http://www.trottierenergyfutures.ca/
canadians.org/ 30. Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation,
10. Council of Canadian Academies, http:// http://www.wdgf.ca/
www.scienceadvice.ca/en.aspx 31. Water Institute, University of Waterloo,
11. David Suzuki Foundation, http://www. http://water.uwaterloo.ca/
12. Environment Canada, http://www.ec.gc.ca/ 8. References
13. Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW), 1. 2003 International Year of Freshwater,
http://www.flowcanada.org/ “`Virtual Water,” 2003. Available at http://
14. Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), www.wateryear2003.org/en/ev.php-URL_
http://gsc.nrcan.gc.ca/index_e.php ID=5868&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_
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January/February 1999.

Laguna San Rafael Glaciers Of Chile

The Water of water availability in quantity and quality,

contrasted with the status of water resource

Sector in Chile demands. A special emphasis is given to water

in cities, environmental related challenges,
Status and Challenges and issues of scarcity. Scarcity in Chile is both
natural and man-induced.
James McPhee1,2, Alberto de la Fuente1, Paulo
Herrera1, Yarko Niño1,2, Marcelo Olivares1,2, The Chilean water legislation is unique in the
Ana María Sancha1, Aldo Tamburrino1,2 and world. While it has created wealth, it has also
Ximena Vargas1 produced inequality in some situations. It is
discussed at length in sections below. This
Departamento de Ingeniería Civil, Facultad de
report aims at providing first and foremost
Ciencias Físicas y Matemáticas, Universidad de a status report. However, future challenges
Chile are highlighted with the purpose of opening
discussions about the potential associated
Centro Avanzado de Tecnología para la
avenues of development.
Minería, Facultad de Ciencias Físicas y
Matemáticas, Universidad de Chile 2. Water Resources Availability
2.1 Surface Water
1. Introduction Annual mean precipitation in Chile ranges from
Chile is a country of extremes. Not only less than 20 mm in the Norte Grande region to in
displays the greatest latitudinal range for excess of 6,000 mm in some areas of Patagonia.
a single country in the world (Arica, its Furthermore, local elevation gradients induce
northernmost city is located well north of orographic enhancement and rain shadow
the tropic of Capricorn, at 18º S, while Cape effects that result in very important spatial
Horn is situated approximately at 57º S), but variability in precipitation input. Thus, surface
also dramatic altitudinal variations, from its water availability varies a great deal along the
coastline at the Pacific Ocean to the highest country. FIG. 1 shows the latitudinal variation
peaks of the Andes cordillera within 200 km. of mean annual precipitation, aggregated
In part due to these features, Chile contains according to administrative regions before
a wide range of climates, and thus many 2007, and compares it with world and South
different hydrologic regimes. The Atacama, American averages.
the driest desert on Earth, coexists in the
same country with regions in Patagonia where In the northern region, between 18º S and
annual rainfall in excess of 4 m is common. 29º S, scarcely any precipitation occurs at all,
with most rainfall happening in the highest
Giving a comprehensive and condensed view areas of the Altiplano (high plateau) and
of water resources in such a diverse country Andean peaks. This rainfall feeds aquifers,
is not an easy task. This chapter attempts to ephemeral streams and a few exoreic rivers
provide such an overview from the perspective such as the Lluta, San José, Loa, Copiapó
and Huasco. These rivers, although modest within a few months of the year, but occurs
in mean annual flow, are of extraordinary almost constantly throughout the seasons.
regional importance: economically, socially
and environmentally. Moving southwards, This climate gives rise to large rivers such
precipitation increases to about 200–800 as the Bíobío, Imperial, Bueno, Futaleufu,
mm/year in the regions known as Norte Chico Aysén, Baker and Pascua; these are relatively
and Chile Central. These areas have typically minor when compared to other rivers
Mediterranean climates, due to the seasonal in South America, but very significant in
movement of the Pacific Anticyclone, which terms of annual flow for Chile. As it will be
allows wintertime precipitation and the explained in later sections of this report,
accumulation of a dominant snowpack. these rivers represent the last frontier in water
Therefore, most of the rivers in this area, such resource development in Chile. FIG. 2 shows
as Limarí, Elqui, Aconcagua, Maipo, Rapel, examples of the mean monthly hydrographs
Mataquito and Maule have snow-dominated of characteristic Chilean rivers.
hydrologic regimes with peak monthly flows
in sync with peak agricultural demands; Additionally, time variability is high in most
this has favored the development of a very streams throughout the country. Climatic
dynamic agricultural industry in this region, patterns such as the Atlantic oscillation (NAO,
which contributes approximately 5% of the SAO, NATL) influence moisture fluxes to the
Chilean GDP (Latin Focus, 2009). arid north, whereas the central region is
influenced by Pacific Ocean–related patterns,
Further south, in the sparsely populated regions most notably ENSO. Moving south, variability
of Patagonia and the subantarctic circle, decreases gradually, and rivers in Patagonia
precipitation increases significantly. Annual show some of the most stable regimes, in
averages of 3,000 mm or more are not unusual, terms of annual flow, in the country. FIG. 3
and precipitation ceases to be concentrated gives examples of the above, by showing the

FIG. 1. Mean Annual Precipitation (mm/yr)

time series of annual flow divided by mean When computing the water balance
annual flow for three representative rivers. throughout the country (FIG. 4), the dramatic
Panel a) shows normalized flows at the Loa differences across regions become starkly
river, in the middle of the Atacama Desert. apparent. While in the northern third of Chile
The central region is represented faithfully by most water is lost to the atmosphere through
the Maipo River (panel b), which flows from evapotranspiration and evaporation from
the Andes Massif into the fertile central valley. surface water bodies (e.g. Salares, wetlands),
Finally, panel c) shows normalized annual flows the central portion of the country displays
for the Baker River, the largest in Chile. The free-flowing rivers that reach the ocean. Here,
latter shows the least inter-annual variability roughly one third of all available resources
among the rivers shown, with annual flows (4,000m3/s) evaporate to the atmosphere,
that are always within 50% of the mean. The while two thirds flow to the Pacific Ocean.
Loa River has a different behavior, somewhat
stable because of significant groundwater
seepage to the stream, but also characterized
for cycles of drought interrupted by wetter
years. Finally, the Maipo River shows a typical
behavior for central Chile, with extreme
variability in annual flow from year to year,
and with low frequency oscillations.

FIG. 3. Time Series of Annual Flow in Three

Representative Rivers: a) Loa at Lequena, b) Maipo at
El Manzano, c) Baker at Bertrand Lake

FIG. 2. Typical Mean Monthly Hydrographs for FIG. 4. Water Balance across three Regions: North,
some Chilean Rivers Central and Southern Chile
The southernmost third of the country,
south from Chiloé Island, displays the most
abundance of surface water resources.

Here evapotranspirative demands are

almost fully satisfied and more than 20,000
m3/s flow freely to the Pacific Ocean.
Population density here is very low (less
than 1 hab/km2) and irrigation demands
are minimal.
FIG. 5. Per capita Regional Water Availability. Red Line
As stated before, spatial variability is key Indicates Water-Stress Threshold of
1000 m3/inhab/year
even when considering this rough division
of the country in thirds. For instance, in 2.2 Groundwater
Aysén, the most water-abundant region, Although aquifers exist throughout most
strong longitudinal gradients due to a rain of the Chilean territory, is in the northern-
shadow effect result in coastal areas having central region where they play the largest
average precipitation of more than 3,000 role as water sources for mining and
mm/year, whereas cities like Coyhaique, agricultural activities. In general, there is
located 200 km to the east, have annual limited knowledge about the horizontal and
averages on the order of 300 mm/year. vertical extent, recharge rates and degree
of interconnection of aquifers. Complex
FIG. 5 displays the per capita availability geology, with fractured rock systems and
of water resources for those regions highly faulted strata, limited field data and
where this figure is relevant. The Aysén unreliable extraction rate estimates augment
and Magallanes regions are not displayed the uncertainty associated with the actual
because of the very little population. sustainability of current groundwater use
(Hiscock et al., 2002). In the Tarapacá and
As it follows from the previous discussion, Antofagasta region, aquifers are recharged
availability increases in the southward by sporadic storms originating in the Atlantic,
direction. What is most interesting to corresponding to what is known as the
note, though, is how a large portion of the Invierno (winter) Altiplanico.
country is under what has been termed
water stress (Falkenmark, 1989). Lag times of up to eight months can be
observed between peak rainfall over the
This not only includes the Norte Grande Atacama high plateau and peak discharges
zone (between parallels 18º and 25º S), from some of these aquifers (Silva, 2010).
but also the Metropolitan Region, where Some aquifers seep to the ground surface
approximately 40% of the country’s at high slope areas, resulting in oases that
population lives (INE, 2008). support human settlements such as Pica,
Mamiña, etc. In the Antofagasta region, Current extraction levels from aquifers in
recharge rates are uncertain and, in some Chile may not be sustainable in some areas.
cases, fossil groundwater may be under The State, through the Dirección General de
extraction. Aguas and Dirección de Obras Hidráulicas, is
carrying out different studies in order to close
Further south in the Copiapó region, existing this knowledge gap. Meanwhile, pressure
aquifers are recharged every few years by over subsurface sources is mounting:
flooding in local rivers. These episodes of groundwater extraction concession requests
high flow and subsequent recharge can be exceed by many times current estimates
linked to inter-annual and decadal climate of available recharge. At the same time,
variability associated with ENSO –and to a ecosystems and human settlements that
less certain extent to the PDO- (Houston, depend on groundwater seepage to survive
2006). FIG. 6 shows global estimates of mean are threatened by overexploitation (Vila et
annual recharge to aquifers in those regions al., 2007). Therefore, it is of key relevance
where groundwater is most relevant. that research efforts directed to refining
current recharge estimates be continued and
Tarapacá, Antofagasta and Atacama regions supported by society at large.
have overall recharge rates of about 10 m3/s,
while the Valparaíso and Metropolitan regions 2.3 Climate Change and Water
have recharge rates between 50 and 100 m3/s. Climate change projections in Chile, although
In the latter two, groundwater resources are still subject to a degree of uncertainty,
replenished by a combination of precipitation indicate a warming trend throughout the
infiltrating to the soil, seepage from river country, combined with a signal of reduction
beds during the snowmelt high flow season, in precipitation for most of the north central
and at least in the city of Santiago, by losses and south central portions of the country.
from the drinking water distribution system FIG. 7 shows the most current estimates of
(Bartosch, 2007). temperature increase for the Chilean territory.

It can be seen that variations are greatest

at high elevation areas along the Andes
cordillera, and that they also increase in the
south direction. Precipitation trends show
a 20-30% drop in annual precipitation by
the end of the 21st century relative to the
baseline period. This reduction affects the
area between Atacama and Chiloé (23º-
43º S), whereas negligible changes or even
slight increases could be expected for the
northern and southern extremes of the
FIG. 6. Estimated Groundwater Resources as Annual
Mean Discharge country (FIG. 8).
that high elevation, snowmelt dominated
watersheds might be severely affected in
their hydrologic regime and annual mean flow
under the most likely climate projections. In
general, percentage precipitation reductions
are exacerbated by temperature increase, so
that for example by 2070-2100 a 30% decrease
in mean annual precipitation combined with a
1.5º C warming could result in a 40% decrease
in annual flow at the mountain fronts. Current
climate projections for central Chile
indicate a decrease in the frequency of
precipitation events, not necessarily a
decrease in daily rainfall magnitudes.
FIG. 7. Temperature Projections Under A2 Emissions Combined with higher temperatures, this
Scenario. Values Expressed as Degree Changes from
Base Line (1960-1990). Adapted from CEPAL, 2009 could result in an increased frequency of
flooding events, as rain-on-snow episodes
could become more significant (Perez and
Vargas, 2009). Specific knowledge on this
issue has still to evolve, and is limited by
the scarcity of field data to feed hydrologic
and flood models.

2.4 Limnology
The southern region of Chile at latitudes higher
than 40oS, concentrates more than 90% of the
distribution of lakes, reservoirs and lagoons
(Salazar and Soto, 2006). This trend is also
presented in terms of density of lakes per unit
of surface shown in FIG. 9, which indicates that
climatic conditions of high precipitation shown
in FIG. 4 are a key factor in understanding this
FIG. 8. Precipitation Projections Under A2 Emissions
Scenario. Values Expressed as Percent Changes from spatial abundance of lakes.
Base Line (1960-1990). Adapted from CEPAL, 2009
The nature of lakes, lagoons and reservoirs
Many studies have attempted to translate these also varies across Chile. In northern Chile,
climate projections into water-related impacts. water bodies are mainly salty lagoons of the
McPhee et al. (2010) evaluated streamflow Altiplano, where the upwelled groundwater
changes under temperature and precipitation is completely evaporated in a small surface
changes for the 21st century, and found (de la Fuente and Niño, 2010). In central
Chile, coastal wetlands are formed and their 2.5 Water Quality
hydrodynamics is influenced by wind and Water quality issues in Chile are as diverse
emerged vegetation (Baladrón, 2011). Large as water quantity. Many quality problems are
and deep lakes formed by glaciers appear of human origin, but in a few areas naturally
in southern Chile, among which Villarrica or occurring constituents associated with
Llanquihue lakes are important touristic places metalogenic geological deposits (Northern
of the region. Stratified conditions govern their Chile) represent, at best a nuisance and at
dynamics during 9 months (spring, summer worst a threat to human populations and
and autumn), and due to the large size of economic activity.
these lakes, internal waves hydrodynamics
is also modified by Earth rotation (Meruane, The Lluta River is an example of this, where
2005; CENMA, 2006; Rozas, 2011). In spite naturally occurring Boron affects local agriculture.
of the large abundance of lakes in Aysén and Arsenic is one of the most conspicuous naturally
Magallanes regions, the key agents that govern occurring water contaminants in Chile. Until
their dynamics are not well known, and this gap recently, the Arsenic standard in drinking water
in the knowledge needs to be filled soon. was 50 μg/l. Currently this limit has been lowered
to 10 μg/l to match international standards.
It is known that melted waters from glaciers Additionally, high evaporation and increased
feed these water bodies and strong winds water extractions have impacted negatively the
recorded in the region seem to be the dominant salt content of many water bodies in the region
agent that dominate their hydrodynamics; (Vila et al., 2007).
however, due to low temperatures of inflows,
it is unclear whether well mixed conditions Mining activities represent a singular problem
occurs in winter. to water quality. The Loa river (the longest river

FIG. 9. Density of Lakes, Lagoons and Reservoirs [Number / 100.000 km2] (Adapted from Salazar and Soto 2006)
in Chile) is a fair example of some of the quality the most characteristic natural constituents.
issues facing northern rivers: at its headwaters Going further south, wetter conditions
in the Altiplano (high plateau) and at mid increase discharge rates in surface streams,
elevations, weathering of rock formations thus diluting many of the municipal and
puts water in contact with mineral-rich soils industrial liquid waste discharges to rivers such
and mobilizes constituents such as copper, as the Maule and Bíobío (CADE-IDEPE, 2004).
chrome, molybdenum, boron, and aluminum. Nevertheless, high profile pollution events
Mining activities here play an important role in (such as the Mataquito river fish mortality
determining water quality, but lack of sufficient events) have highlighted the risks associated to
data hampers our ability to assess its precise the paper mill industry in an area where logging
effect (CADE-IDEPE, 2004). and forestry represent a major economic agent.

In central Chile, where agriculture represents Water quality of lakes and reservoirs has
the largest water user and most of the changed due to shifts in land use and
population resides, water quality issues are urbanization. Salazar and Soto (2006) show
the result of disperse pollution from pesticides increased nutrients concentrations in 7 lakes
and fertilizers, plus organic loads from human whose water quality is systematically measured
settlements. As it will be seen later, wastewater by DGA, a Ministry of Public Works agency.
treatment coverage has increased drastically As a consequence, dissolved oxygen in the
in the last few years, thus organic matter surface waters has reduced in 2 mg/l in 20
pollution is somewhat less of a problem than years (1980 to 2000), and recent observations
it was in past decades. Regarding fertilizer and in Lake Villarrica, a touristic place of southern
pesticide pollution, although the perception Chile, indicate algae bloom events of harmful
among experts is that these do represent species during summer (V. Durán, pers. comm.),
a problem, data is limited, because so far which may become human a health risk for
environmental regulations in the country have humans with the corresponding economic
dealt with controlled discharges to water looses in tourism activity. As a mechanism
bodies, and not with water quality in the to revert this trend, asides the general
receiving water bodies themselves (emission normative that applies to all discharges,
standards do exist, but environmental quality specific normative to regulate water quality
standards have not been enacted). of discharges to particular aquatic system is
recently being defined. This specific regulation
A significant shift in water quality issues considers particular conditions of the receiving
occurs approximately at 34º S, where water body, and among other places, lakes
metalogenic formations along the Andes Llanquihue and Villarrica defined their specific
cordillera disappear. In turn, volcanic activity normative (Woelfl, 2010).
plays an important role in determining soil
characteristics in basins such as the Maule FIG. 10 shows, very approximately, the regional
River watershed, and thus the natural quality distribution of water quality issues affecting
of these waters. In these, aluminum is one of some of the main water bodies in Chile.
construction suggest that the trend towards
increased mining use will continue, even if the
mining industry sustains its current path to
efficiency in water use (Section 3.6).

The central portion of the country is dominated

by irrigated agriculture, with sanitation and
industry representing a relevant share of water
uses only in the Valparaíso, Metropolitana and
Los Lagos regions (FIG. 12). Thus, even when
more than 80% of the Chilean population lives
in urban areas (INE, 2008), the development
FIG. 10. Regional Distribution of Water Quality Problems
model followed by the country places great
3. Water Uses relevance on agriculture, and this is reflected
3.1 General Considerations in water use patterns.
When considering consumptive uses,
agriculture is by volume the single most 3.2 Water, Livestock and Agriculture
important water (FIG. 11) user in Chile, As stated above, agriculture is the single
representing more than three quarters of all largest water user (consumptive use) in Chile.
water consumption in the country. Industry Strong public policies in favor of augmenting
(non-mining) is the second largest user, the irrigated area were put in place since the
with roughly 10% of all water consumption. middle of the 80’s, and starting from 1990
Mining, with 7% of water extractions, the Chilean state pursued the objective of
generates the highest value in terms of GDP. transforming the country in a food-producing
This situation, together with the unique legal powerhouse. Together with a consistent trend
framework regulating water management in in augmenting irrigated area - the government
Chile, has resulted in water being shifted from declares an objective of 1,500.000 has under
agricultural to mining use in some watersheds. irrigation by year 2020 (MOP 2010) -, a
In other cases some water use has been major shift has been an increase in the value
shifted from agriculture to municipal supply, associated with agricultural production, and
in order to keep pace with population growth the ever expanding reliance in groundwater
and increasing per-capita water demands. because of its superior quality, reliability and
flexibility (Peña et al., 2004).
Regionally, irrigation accounts for most water
uses in all but two regions north of the 40º S FIG. 13 shows the regional distribution of
parallel (FIG. 12). Only in Antofagasta and irrigated areas throughout the country and
Atacama mining uses represent a larger fraction their associated water demands. It can be seen
of consumptive uses, due to the extreme aridity how irrigated agriculture is pervasive in Chile’s
and the advanced level of mining activity in central third, which may come as no surprise
those regions. New, large mining projects under given its climatic characteristics. What
is more striking is the fact that irrigation particularly in the sunniest (driest) regions in
demands are not insignificant north of the country. FIG. 14 shows the irrigated areas
Santiago, where climate ranges from semi- and the average irrigation efficiency for each
arid to extremely arid. region of the country. Efficiency is worst in the
The development of global markets for high central region, where water resources are still
value crops such as grapes, olives, avocado perceived as abundant and alfalfa as well as
and the like has resulted in augmented other livestock plant foods is predominant.
agricultural demands; higher revenues In the northern part of the country efficiency
allow the cultivation of hill slopes and not increases to between 45% and 60% driven by
only valley floors; all these effects combine water scarcity and high value crops that allow
to drive higher demands for groundwater higher investment in irrigation systems.

FIG. 11. Distribution of Consumptive Water Uses

FIG. 12. Consumptive Uses, in Percentage


FIG. 13. Irrigated Areas in Chile and Associated Consumptive Use

FIG. 14. Irrigated Areas in Chile and Associated Irrigation Efficiency

3.3 Water and Ecosystems human activity: well exploitation for industrial
Chile combines a relatively low population with purposes, agriculture, grazing and logging can
remote regions and a wide range of climates have detrimental effects over water recharge,
and this combination results in many areas chemical inputs, sediment loads and other
where ecosystems remain largely pristine. factors determining ecosystem health.
In addition to national parks and national
monuments, which in many cases feature In Chile, Ramsar sites have gained increased
water bodies prominently, Chile is affiliated attention in the past decade, and the Chilean
to the Ramsar Convention, and thus wetlands public nowadays shows awareness, if not
in the country have special status. Wetlands, about the specific details, about the relevance
albeit protected, are fragile ecosystems of the issue. A key factor in this process was
that in many occasions are surrounded by the incident involving the Carlos Anwandter
Sanctuary, where swans mortality was 3.4 Water Services for Municipalities
associated with irregular industrial wastewater The analysis of municipal water services in
from a paper mill. This case received intense Chile must be separated into small localities
media coverage and prompted several (less than 500 connections) and large localities
technical reports. To date, disputes on the (more than 500 connections). The municipal
origins and responsibility about the incident water sector in Chile underwent a gradual
remain active (Muñoz, 2005). but steady transformation since the decade
of 1970, where the State slowly opened
Table 1 lists the Ramsar sites managed by the spaces for private investment in the sanitary
national agency in charge of national parks sector. Currently, the Chilean state exercises
and reserves (CONAF); wetlands in Altiplanic an exclusively regulatory role through the
Salares are the majority, but also included are Superintendencia de Servicios Sanitarios
coastal lagoons and riparian habitats. Table (SISS), while drinking water production,
2 lists Ramsar sites managed by other entities. distribution and wastewater collection as
The first two sites are coastal lagoons located in well as treatment (in large localities) are
the extreme south (Bahia Lomas) and semi-arid responsibility of private companies. These
center-north of the country (Laguna Conchali). companies constitute natural monopolies in
The third (Juncal) is a recently added site their service areas, so the State controls service
located in a high elevation valley in the semi- quality and tariff setting through a precisely
arid Andes, two hours north of Santiago. defined negotiating process. The State keeps
Table 1. Ramsar Sites Managed by CONAF
Surface Aditional Wetland type
Site Coordinates area protection
18° 46’ to 18° 55’ S and Natural Perennial salty lagoons associated
Salar de Surire 68° 58’ to 69° 06’ W 15,858 Monument to altiplanic salares

National Perennial salty lagoons associated

Salar de Huasco 20° 18’ S ; 68° 50’ W. 6,000 Park to altiplanic salares

National Perennial salty lagoons associated

Salar de Tara 23° 01’ S; 67° 18’ W 5,443 Preserve to altiplanic salares

Sistema 23° 15’ to 23° 22’ S and National Perennial salty lagoons associated
Hidrológico Soncor 68° 07’ to 68° 11’ W 5, 016 Preserve to altiplanic salares

National Perennial salty lagoons associated

Salar de Pujsa 23° 11’ S; 67° 32’ W 7,397 Preserve to altiplanic salares

Perennial salty lagoons associated

Aguas Calientes IV 24° 59’ S ; 68° 38’ W 15,529 None to altiplanic salares

Laguna del Negro 27° 27’ S and 69° 13’ O and National Perennial salty lagoons associated
Francisco y laguna 27° 04’ S and 69° 10’ W 62,460 Park to altiplanic salares
Santa Rosa
El Yali 33° 50’ S ; 71° 36’ W 520 National Coastal, lagoon
Santuario de la Nature Perennial riparian with periodic
Naturaleza Carlos 39° 35’ to 39° 47’ and 4,877 sanctuary, tidal effects
Anwandter 73° 07’ to 73° 16’ W Montreux
a minority stake in most of the companies that This chart mirrors closely the population
currently operate in the country, while special distribution in Chile, but amplifies this
regulations control the participation that any factor by climatic effects (Santiago is
single firm may have in a geographic region. located in a semi-arid region) and economic
In order to keep expenditures in basic services factors. In Santiago, where average
in check for poor segments of the population, income is generally higher than in other
the State issues targeted subsidies that cover cities, per capita consumption (230 l/cap/
a percentage of sanitary services monthly bill. day) almost doubles that of the rest of the
In small localities, local committees (rural country (110-150 l/cap/day). Not shown is
potable water committees), which receive this graph is the very high spatial variability
technical and some financial support from of per capita consumption within cities: in
the State, manage water production and Santiago, this metric can be as low as 150
distribution. These committees operate l/cap/day –proper of cities located in very
autonomously and are composed by arid regions such as Antofagasta-, but as
the residents of the area being served. high as 600-800 l/cap/day at the wealthier
Usually composed by a groundwater well, areas of the city. Non-critical uses such as
a chlorination unit, an elevated tank and a yard irrigation and swimming pool filling
PVC distribution network, about 1,000 such account for this large difference. As stated
systems exist in the country, and they have above, successive Chilean governments
been enormously successful in providing implemented policies allowing for private
safe drinking water for isolated towns and capitals entering the sanitary sector. Leaving
villages. Some challenges remain, though, aside political considerations, this process
as these small systems are vulnerable to injected fresh resources to regional utilities,
drought or other emergencies, and lack and these resources allowed for: a) the almost
financial resources to invest in increasing complete coverage of supply and sewage
their supply security. collection systems along the country (FIG.
16), and most importantly, for b) a dramatic
FIG. 15 shows the amount of potable increase in the coverage of sewage treatment.
water produced across Chile’s territory. The FIG. 17 shows this metric, and it is self-evident
supplied rates are rather homogeneous with how, around years 1998-2000, the sanitary
the salient cases of cities such as Valparaíso- sector experienced a systemic transformation
Viña and Concepción (with almost 5 m3/s) that led to an almost complete coverage of
and Santiago, with more than 20 m3/s. wastewater treatment today.
Table 2. Ramsar Sites Managed by Other Parties
Site Coordinates Surface area Aditional Wetland type
(has) protection
Bahía Lomas 68o 49’ to 69o 26’ and 58,946 None Coastal, with large tidal
52o 27 to 52o 32’ flats
Laguna 31o 53’ S ; 71o 30’ W 34 None Coastal, transitional
Parque Andino 32o 55’ S; 70o 03’ W 13,796 None Alpine spring fed

FIG. 15. Municipal Water Production and Average Per capita Design Rate.

FIG. 16. Historical Evolution of Sanitary Sector FIG. 17. Historical Evolution of Sewage Treatment.

Despite these remarkable advances, cooperative, community-managed systems

challenges remain for the sanitary water operate, financial limitations preclude supply
sector: utility companies’ service areas usually robustness, and sanitation services are not
evolve at a slower pace than urbanization, included in the responsibilities of municipalities
so there are cases that human settlements or local utility management committees.
adjacent to “urbanized” areas lack adequate
water services. Legally, these settlements 3.5 Water and Health
are considered “rural” or “peri-urban”, and The investments in sanitation by the Chilean
water utilities are not forced to incorporate State and private companies described above
them to their service area, with the resulting led directly to greatly improved morbidity
inequity in water supply and sewage services. and mortality indices of water-borne or water-
On the other hand, in rural areas, where related diseases. In fact, Chile shows children
mortality rates comparable with those of concentrated in the northern half of the
developed countries, which can be traced to country, where climate varies from extremely
improved socioeconomic conditions, among arid to semi-arid. As such, even the relatively
which access to safe drinking water and modest water demands that mining industry
sewage are key. exerts over the national water balance
become relevant at a local level. Because
On the other hand, high exposure in Chile´s in many areas mining has developed later
north to arsenic during 1950-1970 produced than other long-standing water uses (such
early health effects, including increased rates as agriculture), transfers of water rights from
of infant mortality. An epidemiological study these historical uses to mining has created
conducted in 1994-1996 generated data on problems in the water balance of many
arsenic exposure and death rates from cancers watersheds. Conversely, the mining industry
of the lung, bladder, kidney and skin for the has made significant progress in reducing its
period 1950-1996. The authors of the study fresh water use; currently the average for the
conclude that the most significant public health industry is 0.75 m3/ton Cu (Table 3), which at a
effect of the presence of arsenic in drinking price of US$3.00/ounce Cu is equivalent to an
water was lung cancer (Ferreccio et al., 2002). economic output of approximately US$1,400/
The high risk for lung cancer in Antofagasta liter of fresh water.
persisted for 20-30 yr after operation of water
treatment plants, built to remove arsenic, The long-term efficiency goal stated by the
began. From 1993 to 2002 the risk of dying industry is 0.50 m3/ton Cu, which represents
from bladder or lung cancer in Antofagasta was a recirculation ratio of approximately 4-5
four and seven times higher respectively, than in (FIG. 18).
the rest of Chile (Ferreccio and Sancha, 2006).
FIG. 19 shows the non-mining industrial
These rates are expected to decrease, in the consumption in Chile, distributed
coming years, because of significant diminution geographically. The most important industries
of arsenic concentrations in drinking water. in this respect are the paper/pulp processing
However, the impact of increased arsenic industry, metallurgic and food processing.
emissions into the atmosphere- mitigated
somewhat by trapping of gases in recent
years- may have negative consequences in the Table 3. Mining Water Uses for Different Processes
coming decades (Sancha and O´Ryan, 2008). Current
Process Consumption
(m3/ton Cu)
(m3/ton Cu)
3.6 Water and Industry
In terms of economic output, mining is the Concentration 1.10 (0.40-2.30) 0.60
single most important industrial use given Hydrometallurgy 0.30 (0.15-0.40) 0.25
to water in Chile. Combined, all mining Other 0.10 0.05
activity generates approximately half of Average 0.75 0.50
Chile’s exports. Most mining activities are Source: Global Water Partnership, 2004
As can be seen from the illustration, the Service (SERNATUR), in 2008 approximately
demands are concentrated in the central 2,650,000 foreign tourists entered Chile,
portion of the country, especially in the Maipo, and of those 70% did so attracted by special
Maule and Biobío river watersheds. The latter interest activities. SIT does occur in areas
concentrates a great deal of the paper mill where water bodies play a predominant role in
activity in the country, and as was discussed shaping the landscape, such as in Patagonia,
above, can have detrimental effects on water the lakes district and salares in Northern
quality associated with accidental leaks of Chile. In some of these areas, water is key for
solvents, byproducts, etc. (Gaete et al., 2005). either conserving unique biological species
(e.g. Flamingo populations in the Altiplano),
3.7 Water and Ecotourism or for integrating a pristine landscape (e.g.
In Chile, the concept of ecotourism has been Patagonia), or as a sustain medium for a highly
superseded by that of special interest tourism valued activity, such as fly-fishing at many
(SIT). According to the National Tourism fishing lodges in Southern Chile.

FIG. 18. Mining Water Demands in Chile, and Associated Recirculation Ratio

FIG. 19. Water Consumption for Non-mining Industrial Uses

Chile has 9,140,330 has of National Parks,
5,402,669 has of Natural Reserves and 26,896
has of Natural Monuments. Additionally, the
Ramsar sites are associated specifically with
wetlands and are destinations associated with
ecotourism, (Section 3.3).

3.8 Water and Energy

The relationship between water and the FIG. 20. Electric Power Generation Matrix in Chile,
energy sector is manifold. Apart from being 2007 (Modified from Palma et al., 2009)
essential in hydropower generation, large
amounts of water are used for cooling respectively (Palma et al., 2009). The dynamics
purposes in thermal plants. When used for of hydropower’s relative contribution to