Water Resources Management efforts for best water allocation in the Lake Poopo basin, Bolivia

Sammanfattning: The Lake Poopo basin, located on the Bolivian Altiplano, is extremely vulnerable to environmental degradation. The basin displays extreme spatial and temporal variations of water resources and rapidly decreasing water quality due to anthropogenic and natural pollution. The region’s population lives in extreme poverty, and the authorities’ efforts to manage the water resources efficiently have been insufficient. The poor environmental and socio-economic conditions, made worse by water scarcity and extreme weather events, are causing migration from the basin to increase rapidly. Although Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a relatively new approach in Bolivia, it is now generally accepted that this approach needs to be established in order to find sustainable solutions for development. The present study proposes a strategy to implement IWRM in the Lake Poopo basin on the basis of analyzed hydrologic and water-demand data and a model of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis. This research analyses climate and hydrological data from a newly established observational network at the Lake Poopo basin, as well as information from local and regional stakeholders. The data is analyzed using Geographical Information System (GIS), resulting in the assessment of temporal/spatial variability of water balance components and the availability of freshwater resources throughout the basin. The present study assesses also the use and availability of water in the basin and determines the minimum water necessary for increasing the people’s quality of life. A questionnaire was carried out and the data was used to elaborate a model for the determination of rural domestic water demand and the parameters this demand depends on. This study includes the application of the integrated Water Sustainability Index (WSI) to the Lake Poopo watershed. The WSI incorporates hydrologic, environmental, life, and water policy issues and responses for a specific watershed. By analyzing different scenarios, the thesis develops an integrated view of which water-related issues are the most critical for sustainable development. A Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) was also developed in the Lake Poopo basin, based on economic, social and environmental criteria in an uncertain decision environment. The purpose of this was to support stakeholders in managing their water resources, as stakeholder participation is at the heart of successful water resources management. Saaty’s analytical hierarchy process (AHP) theory was applied to solve the MCDA and to identify the alternatives using the highest expected utility value. Thanks to the participation of stakeholders, the study was able to determine the most pressing conflicts, most adequate solutions and best-suited implementing actors. This model forms a basis for the development and execution of an IWRM strategy in the Lake Poopo basin. Finally, this research proposes a stepwise implementation of an IWRM strategy, based on key issues, such as active stakeholder participation, and an institutional arrangement structure. This strategy is designed to improve the management possibilities of the basin’s scarce freshwater resources and the feasibility of planned water harvesting projects. The study assesses the opportunities and challenges in the implementation of the strategy and proposes steps to achieve successful results. In addition, it explores the potential benefits from the development of local capacity and stakeholder participation. The main conclusion of this study is that the water resources in the Lake Poopo basin are subject to extreme variability and scarcity, and that the only way to face this situation sustainably is the immediate implementation of an IWRM strategy with the full participation of stakeholders and the support of local and regional authorities.