A review of the current state of knowledge of proglacial hydrogeology in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Robin Glas, Laura Lautz, Jeffrey McKenzie, Bryan Mark, Michel Baraer, Daniel Chavez, Laura Maharaj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The rapidly melting glaciers of Peru are posing new risks to regional dry season water supplies, and this is evident in the Cordillera Blanca, the mountain range with the world's largest concentration of tropical glaciers. Permanent ice loss is causing reductions to dry season streamflow, which is coupled with shifting demands and control over water access and entitlements in the region. A full evaluation of hydrologic inputs is required to inform future water management in the relative absence of glaciers. Over the last decade, new studies have shown groundwater to be a significant component of the regional water budget during the dry season, and it cannot be ignored when accounting for water quality and quantity downstream of the Cordillera Blanca's alpine catchments. Distinctive common features of the Cordillera Blanca's proglacial catchments are sediment-filled valleys that were once under proglacial lake conditions. The combination of lake sediments with other alpine depositional features results in storage and interseasonal release of groundwater that comprises up to 80% of the valley's streamflow during the driest months of the year. We summarize the emerging understanding of hydrogeologic processes in proglacial headwater systems of the region's principal river, the Rio Santa, and make suggestions for future research that will more clearly characterize the spatial distribution of stored groundwater within the mountain range. As glaciers continue to recede, differences in aquifer thickness and groundwater residence time between alpine catchments in the region will increasingly control dry season water availability at the local and basin scale. This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Hydrological Processes Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change Engineering Water > Planning Water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1299
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • alpine hydrogeology
  • climate change
  • groundwater
  • talus
  • tropical glaciers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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