Climate Adaptation in Mountain Basins In the Andean Region (CAMBIAR)
Meeting Time: Wednesdays, 7:00 pm in ACES 2.402 (starting September 5th)
The Greater Austin Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA), through its Climate Adaptation in Mountain Basins in the Andean Region (CAMBIAR) program has partnered with rural communities in the Ancash region of Peru to address imminent water and climate related adaptation issues. With the highest density of tropical glaciers on the Earth, Peru is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change; only 2% of the country’s water resources are stored where 70% of the population resides. In recent decades, these sources of fresh water have become less dependable and many of the rural communities have experienced water shortages during the dry season. The impacts of these shortages have been felt most acutely by farmers and ranchers in the region who have noticed changes in crop yields and struggled to maintain adequate pasture land.
As a proactive response, 25 municipal districts in the Ancash region have formed the Tres Cuencas Commonwealth for the sole purpose of mitigating water and climate issues within the three watersheds (cuencas) that feed the region. The Commonwealth and CAMBIAR program have signed a formal agreement to work together on collaborative community-scale projects to adapt to water-related climate change challenges. Greater Austin has partnered with The Mountain Institute (TMI), an international NGO on the ground in Peru, to implement new technologies and conservation practices that address water and climate issues in the Commonwealth. Greater Austin is contributing to these projects by: (1) providing technical support for communities to further assess and prioritize their needs, (2) collaborating with communities to design and implement sustainable technical solutions, (3) training communities to conduct maintenance and repairs, (4) educating community members on health and societal benefits of the system, and (5) monitoring long-term project status.
The CAMBIAR program is currently helping Huasta, a municipal district within the Commonwealth, with two water related projects. The first project relates to the limited availability of water for the irrigation of grazing pastures, a result of hydraulic limitations of existing irrigation infrastructure . The CAMBIAR program is working with the community to identify and develop alternative sources of irrigation water so that local ranchers can expand their herds, and in turn, the production of dairy products, an important source of income for the community.The second project focuses on assisting the municipal government to rehabilitate an an existing wastewater treatment plant. The CAMBIAR program will provide technical assistance to the municipal engineer in the form of technical training for plant operators, wastewater engineering expertise, and education and outreach to the greater Huasta community. The education and training resulting from this project will eventually result in this plant’s return to operational status, and once operation is stabilized, potentially help to alleviate irrigation water shortages while reducing the presence of harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites in the community’s watershed.
The CAMBIAR program has completed several assessments in Huasta, building relationships with key community members, characterizing the state of the wastewater treatment plant, and gathering data to design irrigation infrastructure. Greater Austin will return to the community in the January of 2013 to initiate formal wastewater treatment plant education and training and collect data to enable the implementation and construction of an irrigation system in the Summer of 2013. Through pilot projects like these the CAMBIAR program will build local adaptation capacity, community resilience to changes in the environment, and promote a sustainable model for technical community-based development projects.