Geografía y Medio Ambiente

Special Issue: Integrative Water Resources Research and Management in the Andes


El profesor de la sección de Geografía y Medio Ambiente, Fabian Drenkhan fue el editor invitado para la revista internacional Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, junto a los geógrafos Christian Huggel (Universidad de Zurich, Suiza), Natalia Hoyos Botero (Universidad del Norte, Colombia) y Christopher Scott (Universidad Estatal de Pensilvania, EE. UU.). En esta revista acaban de publicar una edición especial que incluye 14 investigaciones sobre temas integrados de análisis, monitoreo y gestión de agua en la región, titulada: “Integrative Water Resources Research and Management in the Andes”.

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In the Andes and adjacent downstream areas of South America, water plays a fundamental role for large populations, indigenous and traditional cultures and highly diverse and vulnerable ecosystems. However, the region is increasingly affected by extreme events such as flood and drought. The Andes experience rapid glacier shrinkage combined with a decline in seasonal snow cover leading to more unreliable river streamflow. At the same time, surface water quality might diminish in some deglaciating catchments with recently exposed sediments or due to human activities including increasing water demand that puts major pressure on water resources. In addition, glacier retreat and permafrost degradation in combination with rapidly developing lakes increase the potential of lake outburst floods affecting growing downstream populations and assets.

This complex situation raises serious concerns about current and future water security and the sustainable management of water resources in the South American Andes. In the past, centralized and engineer-dominated water management was characterized by extending the water supply system including large infrastructure projects with serious social-ecological implications. Over the last decade, several countries of the region have shifted their water resource related strategies towards a more polycentric and adaptive management of water. Some innovative examples include water funds, rewards for ecosystem services and nature-based solutions, in combination with joint-knowledge production.

However, evidence on the respective success of adaptive water management and increasing resilience of social-environmental systems is scarce. This special issue includes contributions that address this context via integrative research, using inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches to analyze current and future water availability, risks and security in combination with improved data collection strategies and modelling efforts.