EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Zooming into the water users: A multi-scale, interactive participatory approach to co-develop Water Management Plans in Bolivian River Basins

Nilo Lima1, Hector Angarita1, Marisa Escobar-Arias2, Wilford Rincon1, Sergio Nuñez3, and David Purkey1
Nilo Lima et al.
  • 1Stockholm Environment Institute, Latin America Centre, Colombia (
  • 2Stockholm Environment Institute, US-Center, Colombia
  • 3Universidad Mayor de San Simón, Laboratorio de Hidráulica, Cochabamba, Bolivia

In Bolivia, since 2006 the Ministry of Environment and Water, through the National Watershed Plan, has developed the conceptual framework and national policy for Watershed Management. At present, this national policy is still in the process of learning and construction from its application in various river basins, principally through the development of Watershed Master Plans.

Three principles guide the development of this national planning effort: i. the recognition of the growing dependence on participatory processes as a forum to identify and enable legitimate water management and governance options, ii. the need to plan for an uncertain future caused by climate change and other societal prerogatives iii. the systemic analysis of the territory incorporating biophysical, sectoral and regional interactions.

Here we present results and lessons learned of this process in the formulation of the Master Plan of the Río Rocha Basin (PDCR); With a population of ~ 1,500,000 people (13% of Bolivia’s population), the basin has high levels of water scarcity that feed an intricate network of conflicts related to access, governance, and environmental degradation. The PDCR is a planning opportunity to enable the necessary conditions to resolve current conflicts and set the foundation of sustainable water management.

Robust decision support (RDS) has been adopted as a guiding framework, constructing a participatory process that considers uncertainties and strategies within an array of management options for the system. To accommodate the large disparities in water access across interests represented at different regions and scales of the Rio Rocha Basin, we implemented two innovations in the RDS process: first, a set of 24 quantitative indices that can operate at several nested scales of planning sub-units (i.e. from independent irrigation units or household water supply service areas, to the entire river basin), and second the use of an interactive “hard-coupled” decision dashboard to the Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP). In combination, this innovations enabled a diverse audience of actors to: i) explore the positive and negative interactions of water management, production systems, hazards and risks management, and ecosystem functions ii) identify disparities in the performance of a proposed plan between scales and ii) analyze and compare different management strategies interactively to improve outcomes and identify and mitigate emerging regional or sectorial conflicts.

As a result, the PDCR established a set of regional and intersectoral actions for 2025 and 2040, which integrate infrastructure, efficiency, pollution control, and territorial and productive planning actions, accompanied by institutional strengthening and capacity development measures. The plan expects to increase access and coverage of the demand for safe water, improve irrigation access, enable long term sustainable exploitation of groundwater and establish synergies with the existing sanitation plan to achieve additional improvements in the environmental quality of the Rio Rocha.

How to cite: Lima, N., Angarita, H., Escobar-Arias, M., Rincon, W., Nuñez, S., and Purkey, D.: Zooming into the water users: A multi-scale, interactive participatory approach to co-develop Water Management Plans in Bolivian River Basins, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-22178,, 2020

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