Sustainability of gravity-fed water systems in Alto Beni, Bolivia: Preparing for change

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Conference Proceeding

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Gravity-fed distribution systems are commonly constructed around the world for provision of drinking water from natural springs. Although they are considered to be an appropriate technology because of simple maintenance requirements and lack of mechanical parts, the sustainability of these sources depends on whether spring discharge can accommodate water needs under present and future conditions. We present results from a study conducted in the Alto Beni region of Bolivia, where communities depend on gravity-fed distribution systems for their drinking water needs. The region is rapidly converting from forest to agriculture. Communities relying on these systems perceive a decrease in spring discharge, and suspect this change is due to increased agricultural use of land in the region. A daily water balance model is used to predict recharge rates, with recharge estimated using the NRCS curve number method. The NRCS curve number model is calibrated against daily stream discharge measurements to obtain estimates of curve numbers for orchards and forests. The recharge is then modeled under scenarios of changes in precipitation and temperature due to global warming and under predicted expansion of agricultural area. Recharge is predicted to decrease in all cases, however the impacts from climate change are larger than those from agricultural expansion. © 2010 ASCE.

Publication Title

World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2010: Challenges of Change - Proceedings of the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2010