Published on The Water Blog

Water and sanitation in Peru: A tale of challenges and solutions

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Chaska and Yaku in their home village. Illustration by Adriana García/World Bank Chaska and Yaku in their home village. Illustration by Adriana García/World Bank

In Peru, only 50 percent of the population have access to safely managed water and only 4 out of 10 have safely managed sanitation. Managing the country's water resources is key to overcoming poverty.  

The story of Chaska and her brother Yaku, although fictional, is inspired by the water security challenges faced by communities in Peru. A country where one in every four people relies on agriculture, Peru depends on rainfall and irrigation for sustenance and income, as indicated by a recently published water security diagnostic report. The text presents data from the report and underscores the importance of reforming certain public policies and advancing infrastructure to ensure a sustainable future for water resources in the country. 

Chaska inherited her small farm from her parents, which sustains her family by growing potatoes, quinoa, and maze. Chaska's farm is located on the slopes of the Andes in the Apurimac region, an area that is facing severe water scarcity due to the effects of climate change – she has been seeing with her own eyes the retreat of the nearby located glacier of Salcantay.  

The disappearance of the glacier has made it challenging for Chaska to maintain her farm and support her family as the water resources in the region are depleting rapidly. Last year, lagoons that used to be crystalline water reservoirs for agriculture dried up as a consequence of missing rain. Limited access to safe water and sanitation services also poses a severe risk of waterborne diseases to her family and other members of the community.  

As a farmer, Chaska understands the importance of irrigation for her crops, which can boost productivity. However, although agriculture is Peru's most significant water user (89%), only 22% of agricultural land is irrigated, making it challenging for farmers to irrigate their crops effectively. Furthermore, the poor condition of the existing irrigation infrastructure adds to the difficulties of managing water resources. 

The water situation from the Andean slopes to Lima 

On the other hand, Yaku, Chaska's younger brother, recently moved to Lima in search of better work opportunities as the inherited farm could not sustain booth Chaska and Yaku’s families.  

After arriving in the peri urban area of San Juan de Lurigancho, Yaku was surprised to observe the lack of green areas and water in the city. Yaku knew that Lima is the second-largest city in the world located in the desert, but he could not have imagined such a transition from the changing, but still green slopes of the Sierra to the yellow and grey colors of Lima. The city relies on groundwater and the superficial water of the Rio Rimac, which are continually threatened by water pollution caused by mining effluents and the use of agrochemicals in intensive agriculture. The absence of treatment for domestic wastewater also exacerbates the situation. Although Yaku has observed some progress in the development of water infrastructure in the city by Sedapal, it is slower than expected and  a lot of construction seemed to be delayed or postponed. 

Despite the challenges they face, Chaska and Yaku maintain an unwavering optimism for the future.

Chaska actively engages with local authorities and fellow small-scale farmers to promote sustainable agricultural practices and preserve healthy ecosystems and wetlands. Chaska's nearby area in Candarave suffered crop devastation due to El Niño a few years ago and protecting wetlands is key to reducing flood impacts and ensuring water during droughts for food security and rural livelihoods, like Chaska's. 

During the Christmas holiday, when Yaku visited Chaska in the Andes to return briefly to his own region, Chaska shared with him how the newly adopted practices are significantly enhancing crop productivity. Inspired by his sister's remarkable dedication, Yaku has embraced the role of an engaged citizen within his local community. He actively supports initiatives aimed at constructing a temporary shared bathroom facility, bridging the gap until the completion of major infrastructure projects for water supply and sanitation services.

To effectively address the water security challenges encountered by Peruvians, the efforts and dedication demonstrated by Chaska and her brother must align with policy reforms within the water sector. The recent Water Security Diagnostic report by the World Bank for Peru outlines recommended policies and infrastructure advancements aimed at enhancing the water sector.  These measures are essential to ensure a sustainable future for both the people of Peru and the country water resources. The World Bank is committed to supporting the country by leveraging its convening role to bring stakeholders together and promote a coordinated approach to maintain momentum and drive action on this important topic.

Related Links

Peru: Strategic Actions Toward Water Security

Infographic: Nine Recommendations to Improve Water Security in Peru

Keys to accelerating nature-based solutions integration into water projects

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