Keywords: stream closure, water allocation, rural water use, unequal access, Colombian Andes, Colombia, water scarcity, streams, agriculture, land use activities, rural areas
Stream closure and water allocation in the Colombian Andes
In the Andean region water for human activities is commonly extracted from small streams. When water is abundant, equity considerations in water allocation arrangements are not apparent; but when streams approach closure, a closer look at water distribution and use are necessary to diagnose and address allocation concerns. This paper presents a case study in the Colombian Andes where water during periods of scarcity is not equitably distributed, disproportionally impacting rural users that depend on agricultural activities for their livelihoods. Although concessions do not allocate water on a first come first served basis, the distribution system favours urban over rural users. It is argued that allocation of water should be based on reliable information regarding water availability, the physical infrastructure for storage and distribution, and the water use requirements of different land use activities.