Adapting to Climate Change in the Illimani Watershed in the Bolivian Andes

The Andes account for more than 98% of the world's tropical mountain glaciers. Rural communities in nearby villages use glacier water for domestic consumption and agricultural production. Now, however, rapid retreat of the glaciers, triggered by climate change, is threatening the water supply of such communities. Given the pace at which the glaciers are retreating, there is an urgent need to look for alternative sources of water.

The Illimani glacier is close to the cities of La Paz and El Alto and has been identified as a potential new source of water. However, water availability in the Illimani watershed is already decreasing as the rural population engages in the production of more profitable agricultural crops such as fruits and vegetables to meet the urban demand. Diverting water to La Paz and El Alto would drastically reduce water availability in the watershed, affect food production and potentially trigger conflict between urban and rural populations.

This grant will strengthen the capacity of local communities and authorities to devise a mid-to-long-term strategy for adapting to climate change in the Illimani watershed. Using scientific evidence from glaciology, hydrology and agronomy, researchers will assess the evolution and prepare a model of water supply and demand in the region. Taking into consideration indigenous knowledge and local risk mitigation strategies, they will identify ways of minimizing conflict over water resources with local stakeholders. The results will inform long-term decision-making regarding water in the cities of La Paz and El Alto.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

End Date

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


30 months

IDRC Officer

Rondon, Marco

Total funding

CA$ 565,555


Bolivia, South America, North and Central America


Climate Change

Project Leader

Juan Carlos Alurralde (also known as "Oso")

Project Leader

Jorge Cusicanqui


Universidad Mayor de San Andrés

Institution Country


Institution Website