Water Scarcity in the Andes: A Comparison of Local Perceptions and Observed Climate, Land Use and Socioeconomic Changes
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In the Andean region of South America, understanding communities’ water perceptions is particularly important for water management as many rural communities must decide by themselves if and how they will protect their micro-watersheds and distribute their water. In this study we examine how Water User Associations in the Eastern Andes of Colombia perceive water scarcity and the relationship between this perception and observed climate, land use, and demographic changes. Results demonstrate a complex relationship between perceptions and observed changes. On the one hand, observed changes in land cover match perceptions of deforestation as the primary cause of increasing water scarcity. On the other hand, perceptions of climate driven changes in water availability are not reflected in observed precipitation data. Furthermore, water scarcity was perceived in regions where seasonal rainfall variability is higher but not in regions where annual rainfall is lower. We discuss how these results contribute to our understanding of adaptation to climate change and the implications of possible mismatches between environmental changes and local perceptions.