Santa River

Rio Santa, Peru (Photo @ James Dalton)

The River (Rio) Santa flows south to north through the Callejon de Huaylas valley under the shadow of the Cordillera Negra, and the imposing Cordillera Blanca, the 2nd highest mountain range in the world. Glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca make up around 70% of annual flow in the Rio Santa, and also drain east to contribute to the headwaters of the Amazon.

The long-term future of the Rio Santa and the Ancash region of Peru

Recent work by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Service of Peru (SENAMHI), the Development Research Institute, and the Glaciology Unit of the National Water Authority, highlights that flows from glaciers in the region will increase over the next 25 to 40 years as they melt. But this increase in flow will decline from 2050 onwards as the glaciers reduce in size. This could put the Rio Santa and the ecosystem services provided by the river under extreme pressure, especially during the dry season when between 70% to 90% of the river flow is glacier fed.

Capacity development to cope with climate change

The first objective of the project is to work with people to develop a participatory workplan and to try and understand the range of problems in this complex basin. The Huascaran National Park Authority is concerned with poor land use practices, over-grazing and soil degradation, affecting biodiversity, soil slope stability and species. However farmers are mainly concerned with the amount of sediment and the impact on canals and agricultural equipment. Water quality is often mentioned as the common concern amongst stakeholders. Mining activities, dam tailings, agricultural run-off, lack of wastewater treatment and direct solid waste discharge into the Rio Santa make protecting the river a common challenge. 

WANI is working in the Rio Santa basin to improve water resource management and the impacts of climate change on river flows. Adaptation to these changes and increasing reliance on the river to provide ecosystem services for economic growth and development are at the forefront of WANI interventions in the basin. 

Further Reading