Assessing water appropriation and equity in the Coello and Bermellon watersheds, Colombia

Assessing water appropriation and equity in the Coello and Bermellon watersheds, Colombia

Application of Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM)

Roya Bennett, MLWS 2016


Water funds and flows calculated for the Bermellon watershed with the MuSIASEM framework.

Water allocation frameworks have focused largely on allocations of supply and recommendations for supply-side management. This approach does not consider the environmental effects and requirements to sustain ecological services, nor the equitable allocation among users. The Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) approach assesses the complex interactions between socioeconomic and environmental facets of water resources. The framework integrates the ecological availability of water, as well as the socioeconomic water use across sectors and industries.

MuSIASEM presents a systematic project planning and implementation strategy for project facilitators, and was applied in a case study region, the Coello and Bermellon watersheds in Colombia. These watersheds are under examination by local NGOs (Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida (Environmental Committee in Defense of Life)), the regional environmental authority (Cortolima), and the downstream irrigation district (UsoCoello), as plans move forward to build an open-pit gold mine, La Colosa.

This analysis raised concerns about the potential of over-appropriation of water in the dry season, and identified potential for conflicting uses between the proposed mine and the agricultural sector. Currently, water is being appropriated at quantities approaching the average annual water availability and discharges do not meet the demand of downstream uses during parts of the year. Livelihoods in the region are dependent on water associated with agricultural activities, thus concerns of equitable water availability and appropriation need to be addressed before any decisions or policies regarding future industries are implemented.