Water management and the importance of indigenous peoples

By: Alejandra Araujo and Fátima Calvo

Water management

Water is a strategic resource for the country's development, which is why the government must ensure integrated and multisectoral management, sustainable use, conservation, preservation of the quality, and increase of water resources throughout the national territory. For this reason, a management model should be developed that seeks to ensure that water uses are interrelated with an integral vision and promotes the active participation of each of the stakeholders linked to water since good management leads to food security, physical and climatic security to achieve sustainable economic, social and environmental development.

Let us recall the Dublin principles in commemoration of the "Day for Responsible Water Management" (October 1): Water is a finite and vulnerable resource, and water development and management should be based on a participatory approach (where women play a key role) and water constitutes an economic good.

Indigenous peoples

The indigenous peoples, according to the Ministry of Culture (2014), are:

  • People who have been in the national territory since before the establishment of a government.

  • Peoples with a territorial connection, i.e., the occupation of an area of the country by the ancestors of indigenous populations.

  • People with distinctive political, cultural, economic, and social institutions, preserved, partially or totally, by these human groups.

In recent years, international forums such as the ILO, the UN, and the OAS have been translating indigenous claims into treaties and agreements that help to support their rights before the State. That is why in Peru, since 2009, the "Day of Indigenous Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue" is celebrated every October 12, a celebration that seeks to recognize and value intercultural dialogue and ethnic differences to achieve sustainable development.

Thus, ILO (International Labor Organization) Convention 169 prescribes that the government must recognize and protect the lands and habitat of indigenous peoples, protecting their rights to the natural resources existing in their territories. In our country, the ownership of resources belongs to the government, therefore, the rights of indigenous peoples are restricted to participation and consultation in decisions to exploit resources. In this sense, the Indigenous Peoples Policy states:

  • Respect and promote the collective rights of the indigenous or native peoples found in the areas where the interventions are implemented.

  • Promote the informed participation of indigenous or native peoples throughout the life cycle of programs and projects, to prevent, minimize or correct any negative impact that could be generated and, on the other hand, to enhance the positive impacts for the benefit of these peoples.

  • Promote activities that lead to the well-being of indigenous peoples and improve their livelihoods and the environmental sustainability of their territories.

Indigenous peoples in water management in Peru

In 2017, the National Water Authority (ANA), within the Indigenous Peoples Planning Framework, began to emphasize the identification and valuation of ancestral practices and knowledge related to the behavior of water regimes in watersheds.

In the Andes, technological traditions are practiced to predict the rain cycle of the next agricultural season, which begins with the observation of the constellation of the Pleiades in the early morning of the winter solstice. The prediction is based on the luminosity of its stars to see if the rainy season will be advanced, abundant, scarce, or regular and thus continue with the sowing advanced or delayed. In the same way, the “Fiesta de las Cruces” confirms or helps to refine the first prediction, since the flowering of some species is observed, the sighting of species such as the fox and hearing the call in its rutting stage allows to further adjust this prediction. On the other hand, a practice in Lake Titicaca is the observation of the level of species that nest in the cattail, which allows us to see up to what level its flow will rise and to be able to better determine up to which zone it will be possible to plant. Similarly, in the Amazon, they use natural indicators such as the cycle of plants and animal behavior.

It is worth mentioning that the compilation of detailed information on these practices in the various regions of Peru has not yet been carried out, but the above-mentioned shows how water actively participates in the development of their cultures, since it takes place as a "living being" and their perception of this resource is highly valued given its vital connection with their communities and what surrounds them, that is, nature; therefore, water is at the center of their territorial, cultural, environmental, political and economic activities (Reyes Estate et al, 2022; Ulloa et al., 2022).

Final thoughts

Indigenous peoples play a fundamental role in the sustainable management of water resources. To date, only some of their ancestral practices are known, such as predicting the rainfall cycle of the country's various basins; however, this compilation is still very limited. It is necessary to improve the regulations on the rights of indigenous peoples in terms of their active participation in water resource management.


  • Autoridad Nacional del Agua - ANA (2017). Marco de planificación de pueblos indígenas. ANA. Proyecto: Gestión Integrada de recurs Hídricos en 10 cuencas. https://www.ana.gob.pe/sites/default/files/girh/marco_de_planificacion_para_pueblos_indigenas_final.pdf

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