Groups in Peru’s southern Tacna Region are urging authorities to pursue desalination projects to address the ongoing water crisis in the area and prevent overexploitation of La Yarada aquifer.
Speaking at an event to mark the 84th anniversary of Tacna’s reincorporation after the War of the Pacific between Chile and a united Peru and Bolivia, Ana Maria Neyra Urquizo of NGO the Meritorious Mutual Aid Society of Women insisted that desalination and new dam construction were necessary to provide water for agriculture and to protect local aquifers.
The aquifers are already being affected by seawater incursion and contamination. The local agricultural sector extracts some 120 million cubic meters of water per year, more than double the limit of 55 million cubic meters authorized for extraction.
Additionally, Neyra criticized the “passivity of authorities” and demanded the closure of over 500 illegal wells in Los Palos and La Yarada.
In mid-July, the local Board of Users asked the National Water Authority (ANA) to order the Armed Forces to intervene and shut down the wells. Diario Correo reported that there were a total of 522 illegal wells and 96 “informal” wells near the border with Chile.
Neyra urged the National Congress to pass new legislation to ensure mining projects respect the requirements of Environmental Impact Assessments and water licenses. Mining companies Southern Copper and Brescia Group’s Minsur are active in the Tacna region.
Local sanitation service provider EPS-Tacna is also concerned about La Yarada aquifer. Water supplied to Tacna residents and used for agriculture has levels of arsenic that exceed the standards set by the Peruvian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).
On August 28, ANA Peru and the Tacna regional government agreed to work together to address the region’s water crisis. They held a meeting that concluded with a decision to carry out new hydrological studies for La Yarada and Locumba basins.
Representatives of the regional government, ANA, EPS-Tacna, the Ministry of Agriculture and other groups will meet on September 6 to discuss other solutions.
This story is brought to readers free in association with Singapore International Water Week.