Water abounds in South America. The continent has as much as 28% of the world's freshwater resources but only 6% of the world’s population. The region contains three of the largest river basins in the world: the Amazon, Orinoco and Rio de la Plata. It also boasts the Guarani aquifer, one of the world’s largest groundwater bodies, extending to more than 1,200,000 square kilometres.
Nevertheless, 23% of the region is covered by dry areas and South America continues to experience deteriorating water quality from deforestation and soil erosion.
Vital water resources in danger
The Andes – a mountain system of 7,240 km and the highest tropical snow-covered mountains in the world – play a vital role in the water supply of both the Amazon and Pacific coastal river basins. These water supplies are threatened by glacial melt due to global warming. Water resources in the Amazon region are also in danger because of land clearance, and forest fires and fragmentation. By 2050 30% to 60% of the Amazon rainforest could be abruptly and irreversibly replaced by a type of dry savannah, with the consequential large-scale loss of livelihoods and biodiversity.
Facilitating IWRM processes
GWP South America supports the facilitation of IWRM processes at regional and national level. This means consolidating the regional network. GWP South America was established in 2006 and has become a key actor in several countries in this vast region – two-thirds the size of the African continent. Continued efforts will facilitate the establishment of neutral multi-stakeholder platforms.
South America has 69 out of 279 of the world’s transboundary river basins. GWP South America has supported the Brazilian National Water Agency (ANA) in harmonizing the legal framework affecting these waters, a major challenge in the years to come.
With the aim of facilitating capacity building and technical south-to-south exchanges among GWP regions, GWP Brazil and CapNet Brazil promote the Lusophone Water Partnership. This partnership includes all African Portuguese-speaking countries and is expected to improve the availability of key IWRM documents in Portuguese.
GWP South America continues to affirm the need for developing IWRM plans through the Lima Declaration, in which water directors of Latin America ratified their commitment.