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Strategic Land Use Planning for Climate Change-Driven Water Shortages in El Alto, Bolivia

Linda Shi, Marisa Escobar, Brian Joyce, and James Kostaras

July 2013, English

The highland city of El Alto, Bolivia, is vulnerable to climate change due to the region’s declining water resources and its socio-economic, fiscal and governance constraints. El Alto could double in expanse by 2050 if past development patterns continue. National and international agencies are augmenting the water supply infrastructure, but the city and water utility’s financial vulnerability in extending the distribution network is not being addressed. Peri-urban residents, including migrants displaced by rural drought, and urban residents solely reliant on piped water will be at risk to water shortages, water contamination and price spikes. While the link between drought and urban land use planning is not well studied, this case suggests that urban growth management should play a strong role in climate adaptation in arid zones. Besides supply-side infrastructure, adaptation efforts in the water sector should build El Alto’s institutional capacity to manage urban growth and promote community drought resilience.

Keywords: climate change adaptation, vulnerability, urban, planning, water management, highland, Andes, Bolivia, water modeling, WEAP