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Colombia and Peru: Improving Watershed Management Through Data Modeling

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Partnering for Adaptation and Resilience – Agua (Para-Agua) Project

2013 - 2017
Client: USAID
Implemented by: DT Global US

Climate change has negatively impacted water resources and ecosystems in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. In Peru and Colombia, rising temperatures and extreme hydrologic events such as prolonged drought and heavy flooding put livelihoods in downstream communities at risk. Many economically important sectors—especially water-reliant agricultural industries such as pima cotton, alpaca textiles and crops in Peru, as well as coffee in Colombia—are based in regions that depend on water supplied by glaciers and páramos (moorlands) that are rapidly receding due to climate change. According to global models captured by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, these problems will only grow, with many more civilians exposed to floods and droughts that threaten their economic well-being and their lives.


PARA-Agua’s overall approach combined traditional capacity building activities in target watersheds with a dynamic exchange between policy and action. PARA-Agua built linkages and improved collaboration between researchers and decision-makers to enable the mainstreaming of hydrological, climate, and socio-economic data into watershed management and planning in the target watersheds of Peru and Colombia. Key elements of our approach included:

  • Full integration of the three principal project tasks in a continuous cycle where more policy-oriented research led to more informed watershed decision-making, which in turn led to better plans and investments and increased demand and thus led to better science.
  • Sustained linkages between researchers and policy-makers to ensure that research priorities are driven by critical watershed needs and policies, which in turn create demand for and led to quality data.
  • Fostering regional cooperation by replicating regional and international best practices adapted to the local context and catalyzing on sustainable models to scale up project initiatives.
  • Access to world-class experts and deployment of proven tools, including risk and vulnerability assessments, modeling systems, and planning methodologies for investment prioritization and transition of these tools and necessary skills to capable local institutions for sustainability.
  • Gender mainstreaming in all activities to improve women’s participation in watershed planning and equip women to become change agents in their communities.

PARA-Agua had three main project goals:

  • Strengthen the capacity of the research community to generate policy-oriented data on watershed management and climate change adaptation.
  • Mainstream and integrate climate data into decision-making related to watershed management.
  • Strengthen planning systems that optimize water use over the entire length of watersheds in the context of climate change adaptation.

Results included:

  • Provided key support in the design and formation of four water funds.
  • Prepared $82 million in proposals for new projects in research, green and grey infrastructure, system alerts, and other technologies.
  • Improved capacity of 16 women’s groups to adapt to climate change.
  • Trained and certified 35 water resources communicators to disseminate information on predicted rainfall, issue evacuation alerts, and care for populations impacted by the 2017 floods.
  • Presented innovative climate change adaptation tools and practices to more than 550 government officials, scientists, and other watershed stakeholders.
  • Disseminated best practices in adaptation to climate change through the Community of Practice, “Science for Adaptation,” reaching more than 35,000 individuals in 50 countries.

Environment & Infrastructure

Resilient Cities
Natural Resource Management
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)