Lima 2013 Blog: Peru's Water Challenges - Bridging Supply and Demand


Though the Andean country is home to one of the world’s largest freshwater supplies, the majority of the population lives along the arid coast.

Peru has one of the largest supplies of renewable freshwater resources on the planet, and 71 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers. But around two-thirds of the population lives on the country’s arid coast, which produces less than 2 percent of the country’s freshwater. With a majority of the population far from freshwater reserves in the Amazon basin and the glaciers, a need for infrastructure presents a critical challenge, along with the pollution of available water supplies.

The metropolitan area of Peru’s capital of around 9 million people depends on water from the Rimac, Chillón, and Lurin Rivers, which flow from the highlands. After Cairo, Lima is the second-most populated desert city in the world, and nearly 2 million people there lack access to clean water and sewage systems. As the city’s population expands, the government aims to boost Lima’s water infrastructure. Using public-private partnerships (PPPs), plans are underway to build a tunnel from the Huallacocha Bajo and Pomacocha lakes to Lima, as well as to double the capacity of the Chillón River basin.

Another piece of the government’s water infrastructure plan involves a coordinated strategy. In June 2011, the government inaugurated a new water treatment plant, called Huachipa, and a year later began operating the Huascacocha Dam, used to boost the amount of water processed at the plant. Now, PPPs will double the size of Huachipa and install a new pipeline from the plant to the city of Lima. In the country’s interior, the government plans to invest around $1.6 billion beginning this year on over 800 water and sanitation projects.

Connecting Peru’s water supply to consumers isn’t the only problem; pollution also presents a challenge. Around 60 percent of contaminants in the Rimac River come from mining, with around a quarter from domestic refuse. The Lurin River has a large amount of runoff from storm drains, as well as “mountains of trash.” In July, Peru’s Ministry of the Environment announced a plan to coordinate between different levels of government to locate sources of pollution, particularly in mining.