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Cablegate: Andean Glacier Melt Portends Shortages of Water And

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RR RUEHAST RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHTM
DE RUEHBR #1341/01 2831930
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091930Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2624
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 3993
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0640
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RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
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RUEHC/DOI WASHDC
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RUEANAT/NASA HQ WASHDC
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RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RUEHRC/USDA WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BRASILIA 001341

SIPDIS

DEPT PASS USAID LAC/RSD,LAC/SAM,G/ENV,PPC/ENV
INTERIOR PASS USGS FOR INTERNATIONAL: JWEAVER
NSF FOR INTERNATIONAL: HAROLD STOLBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENVEAGREAIDTBIOECONSOCIXR
SUBJECT: ANDEAN GLACIER MELT PORTENDS SHORTAGES OF WATER AND
HYDROPOWER

BRASILIA 00001341 001.2 OF 004


1. SUMMARY. Accelerating glacier melt in the central Andean region
of South America (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia) is
rapidly shrinking frozen water storage reservoirs, providing
short-term water surpluses that portend long-term water scarcity,
with significant reductions in river flows predicted as early as
2030. The long-term reduction and possible disappearance of
glaciers and glacial melt waters will endanger fresh water supplies
for Andean populations and for the agriculture sector. It will also
reduce hydropower potential in central Andean nations, threatening
to destabilize energy security. In the Andean region as a whole,
glacial water supplies support the lives and livelihoods of 30
million people.

2. Adaptation strategies are needed to address issues such as:
integrated water resource management, energy diversification,
alternative water supply development, engineered and alternative
water storage solutions, increased agricultural irrigation
efficiency, agricultural crop substitution. The U.S. Government,
via USAID and the Department of State, is working to support the
Andean region in developing strategies to adapt to climate-driven
glacial melt. END SUMMARY

THE WORSENING PROBLEM OF GLACIER MELT

3. Striking a continental divide between the Pacific Coast and the
Amazon Basin, the Andean mountains are home to the world's largest
concentration of tropical glaciers (those located between 30N and
30S degrees latitude). This region is prominent in its
vulnerability to climate change, as demonstrated by accelerating
tropical glacial melt and growing water scarcity.

4. Progressive changes in tropical Andean glaciers have been mapped
for decades via field observations and satellite imagery. Peru,
Bolivia and Ecuador, home to 70 percent of the Earth's tropical
glaciers, have recorded losses of nearly one third of glacial
surface area since the 1970s. Moreover, the pace of glacial melt
has accelerated since 1980, according to INRENA, Peru's National
Resources Institute.

5. Predictive calculations made by the Earth Simulator
supercomputer (Japanese Meteorological Research Institute, JMRI)
indicate that lower altitude glaciers in the central Andes will
disappear in the next 10-20 years; many more glaciers will disappear
in the next 50 years, with serious implications for water supplies
and hydropower generation. Regional and international hydrologists
are predicting a dramatic decline in water availability after 2050,
with significant reductions occurring as early as 2030 (CONAM,
National Environmental Council Peru).

CRITICAL WATER STORAGE

6. Andean glaciers provide fresh water and hydropower to Andean
countries including Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina,
Colombia, and Venezuela.

7. Glaciers play the important role of regulating year-round water
supplies by storing water in the form of ice in the wet and cold
seasons, and providing glacial melt water runoff in drier and warmer
seasons. As glaciers retreat and disappear, this glacial melt
regulating function will diminish and eventually be lost, resulting
in greater wet season flooding, less water storage, and less dry
season water availability. Decreasing water supplies and increasing
water supply seasonality will have adverse impacts on agricultural
production, hydroelectric production, population centers, ecosystem
well-being, and the mining sector (subject of subsequent cable).

8. In the central Andean region of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and

BRASILIA 00001341 002.2 OF 004


Ecuador, rapid glacial melt is causing short-term water surpluses
that portend long-term changes in water balance. Predicted water
shortages will likely reduce agricultural and hydropower
productivity, jeopardizing the food and energy security of these
developing nations.

AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY IMPACTED

9. Owing to twists of geography and meteorology, 98 percent of
Peru's fresh waters reside on the eastern or Amazonian side of the
Andean continental divide, rather than on the water-scarce Pacific
Coast side where over 70 percent of the population resides, and
where only 2 percent of the renewable water supply is available. In
this same water-scarce coastal region, two-thirds of Peru's
agricultural production occurs, completely dependent upon irrigation
owing to a virtual absence of local precipitation.

10. In recent years, agricultural irrigation has consumed 82
percent of water withdrawals in Peru (97 percent from Andean surface
waters), yet an estimated 65 percent of this water is lost through
inefficient and wasteful irrigation practices. With growing water
scarcity concerns, there is great incentive to improve Peru's
agricultural water use practices. Under current Peruvian water law
(Ley General de Aguas, 1969), water is rarely metered and fees are
mostly based on hectarage rather than on the volume of water used.
Whereas irrigation plays a fundamental role in increasing regional
agricultural productivity (as well as rural employment and food
security), inefficient irrigation practices have contributed to soil
salinization problems that could imperil the long-term productivity
of this vulnerable coastal land.

11. Future reductions in Andean river water availability to the
agriculture sector along Peru's Pacific coast (and the deteriorating
effects of soil salinization) will have significant impacts on
future trade in agricultural products and national economic growth
for Peru. In recent years, the agricultural sector employed
approximately 30 percent of the Peruvian population, and accounted
for 10 percent of exports, and 13 percent of GDP.

CRITICAL HYDROPOWER AT RISK

12. In the power sector, Andean countries have become highly
dependent upon hydroelectric power. In recent years, roughly 80
percent of actual supplied electricity in Peru was generated via
hydropower; Colombia 73 percent; Ecuador 72 percent; Bolivia 50
percent; and Chile 43 percent, according to the World Bank and the
U.S. Energy Information Administration. In the case of Chile,
recent years have brought periodic droughts and water scarcity,
resulting in energy supply shortfalls. Chile's efforts at energy
diversification (initiated in 1990s) have resulted in construction
of natural gas-fired power plants, and an increasing profile in the
ranking of greenhouse gas emitters. COMMENT: Due to lack of
sufficient natural gas supplies in 2007 and 2008, Chilean power
plants and industrial facilities designed to burn natural gas
switched to burning of diesel and coal, contributing significantly
to the cost and the by-product air pollution of electricity
generation. In 2007, Chile spent 7 percent of its GDP on energy
production, about twice what the country should have spent, owing to
the natural gas shortfall and high global petroleum prices. END
COMMENT.

13. Whether from reduced precipitation or reduced glacial storage,
diminishing water flows in Peru as in Chile have weakened recent
hydroelectric power production, a trend that will likely continue.
Furthermore, in Peru, the low domestic prices of Camisea natural gas
are shifting the balance from hydropower towards gas-fired power
generation.

BRASILIA 00001341 003.2 OF 004

14. To estimate economic implications of regional climate change,
World Bank engineer Walter Vergara has used JMRI Earth Simulator
predictions of glacial runoff and precipitation patterns to
calculate future changes in hydropower potential. Using as case
study the Peruvian Canon del Pato hydropower plant, economic
evaluations using glacial melt runoff predictions at 50 percent of
historic flows indicate that electricity production will drop 19
percent. With full disappearance of glacial melt runoff, hydropower
production is estimated to decrease 37 percent. If adaptation
measures are not implemented, Vergara estimates that the economic
consequences of glacier retreat and disappearance could exceed one
billion US dollars annually for the Peruvian power sector,
accounting for costs that include forced energy rationing. In
addition, capital investment will be required for construction of
thermal-based power plants at a cost of US$1 billion per gigawatt
installed. The Andean Community (CAN), a regional organization
composed of member countries Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia,
estimates that climate change will cause US$30 billion in annual
losses in Peru, equivalent to 4.5 percent, of GDP starting in 2025.
NOTE: Local construction costs for natural gas-fired power plants
may be lower than cited in World Bank report. END NOTE.

15. Environmental implications of a transition from hydropower to
thermal-based energy production are also alarming. Increased fossil
fuel burning for electricity production in the region will increase
carbon emissions, transforming low emitter Andean nations such as
Peru and Chile into larger players in the world of greenhouse gas
emissions.

DRINKING WATER DEPENDENCE ON GLACIERS

16. In the Andean region as a whole, glacial water supplies support
the lives and livelihoods of 30 million people. Water flowing from
the Andean highlands is captured to provide agricultural and urban
drinking water supplies for growing coastal populations. In Peru,
Andean rivers fed by glacial melt provide the predominant source of
drinking and agricultural water to over half of the Peru's
population.

17. Of the major central Andean urban centers, Quito, Ecuador draws
50 percent of its water supply from glacial basins; La Paz, Bolivia
draws 30 percent from glacial melt; and Chile draws 70 percent of
its national water supply from glacial melt. In Lima, a city of 8
million residents, water supplies are drawn from rivers that include
glacial melt and are supplemented by ground water pumped from
glacially recharged aquifers. Groundwater extraction from coastal
aquifers is necessary to supplement potable water sources to Lima's
increasing urban population located in this coastal desert. In
fact, limited water rationing is already in effect in Lima, a city
where about 36 percent of potable water is wasted through aging
distribution system infrastructure. As water scarcity intensifies,
disputes over water extraction, water use and water ownership will
be increasingly likely.

18. Beyond concerns with the quantity of water supply, river water
quality in coastal cities across Peru is deteriorating due to
uncontrolled use of agrochemicals, mining effluents, industrial
wastewater, dumping of municipal wastewater and solid waste. Peru's
ombudswoman Beatriz Merino warns that a portion of Lima's river
water supply is exposed to legacy mining tailings that include:
arsenic, barite, mercury, cadmium, radioactive materials,
hydrocarbons, cyanide and sulfuric acid.

RESPONDING TO THE CHALLENGE

19. In light of climate change and rapid glacier melt, adaptation

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plans for central Andean countries need to focus on integrated water
resource management, energy diversification, alternative water
supply development, engineered and alternative water storage
solutions, coordinated infrastructure, water demand management,
increased agricultural irrigation efficiency, and agricultural crop
substitution.

20. Peru has provided the setting for numerous climate
change-related workshops in the past year, most focused on evidence
presentation documenting glacial melt and water scarcity. These
workshops have included the Latin American Carbon Forum (September
2007) and Andean Community (CAN) Meeting on Climate Change and Water
Resources (September 2008). The World Bank is also engaged on Andean
water issues. In 2009 it will initiate two Global Environmental
Facility (GEF) projects in Peru focused on impacts of climate change
on mountain hydrology and water resource management modernization.

21. As a more solution-focused approach to water security and
climate change adaptation, USAID and U.S. Department of State will
organize a university-based workshop with Peruvian stakeholders from
academia and government titled "Adapting to Glacial Loss" in summer
2009. USG support for this workshop will provide institutional
strengthening within Peru and the central Andean region, provide
further opportunities for climate change research, and promote
development of climate change adaption strategies for future
planning.

SOBEL

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