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Climate change and water resources in the tropical Andes

Climate change will without a doubt affect future access to clean drinking water, as well as to water for sanitation, irrigation and agriculture, mining operations, and hydro power production in the tropical Andes. Social, economic and environmental conflicts surrounding the struggle for control over water will be exacerbated in areas where water scarcity is juxtaposed with rapidly growing water demand due to population pressure and expanding economic activities. This paper describes the challenges surrounding current and future water use in the tropical Andes by first reviewing the modern and future projected hydrological cycle and anticipated impacts on environmental services provided by glaciers and wetland vegetation. The paper elaborates on the current tensions and conflicts surrounding water use from a social and economic perspective and ends by focusing on the challenges ahead and looking at possible solutions for more sustainable and equitable future water use in the region.