Introduction to the context of water management in Tiquipaya municipality, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Tiquipaya municipality is located in the Cochabamba valley at only 4 km of its main city Cochabamba. Its proximity to this city has led to fast urbanization with a high population growth (11% per year). The population has increased from 3’000 people in 1992 to more than 40’000 in 2006, causing a rising demand for water and land.

Water is supplied by the upper catchments of the Rocha River Basin for irrigation and drinking water purposes. Low rainfall (450 mm) and the prolonged dry season (April to December) make it increasingly difficult to satisfy the growing demand for water. Furthermore, the municipality lacking a clear land use plan, could not cope with the rapid and uncontrolled growth and failed to provide sufficient infrastructure including water infrastructure. Consequently, tensions related to access and use of water for irrigation and drinking water have increased during the past decade. Attempts to find solutions through the privatisation of drinking water services in the region have failed, resulting in violent conflicts like the “war on water” (2000) in the Cochabamba valley.

This situation is aggravated by the lack of formalized, legal arrangements for water allocation at municipal level. An overall legal framework at national level is missing and sector approaches by government institutions are prevailing. Thus, the current system of water allocation and pricing in Tiquipaya consists of a multitude of informal arrangements between farmers or communities based on traditional rights (customs and consuetudinary rights). While the irrigation systems have established strong water rights and rules for irrigation management, the drinking water sector is not organized but split in about 50 small drinking water committees in Tiquipaya alone. Many urban dwellers are not connected to drinking water and sewage systems, and uncontrolled individual tapping of groundwater is increasing.
In this context, the municipality of Tiquipaya is challenged with the task to create consensus between all stakeholders for building a collective vision for an integrated water management. Recent initiatives have worked towards creating the basis for a constructive dialogue between the parties. The fact that actors from the irrigation sector are now also represented in the municipal government increases the chances to find win-win solutions. A precondition for success is however that the strong irrigation lobby is open to review the traditional water rights system.

Within the initiative “Capitalization of experiences - Water, Land and People” a learning group composed of local and institutional stakeholders in Tiquipaya analyzed the situation related to water management and identified key elements that contribute to consensus-building. A series of stories and testimonies were gathered from different actors and served as the basis for the analysis and drawing of lessons learned.


Some data on water management in Tiquipaya

Related lessons learnt