Peru: Living Without Water

Living Without Water

Directed by Henry Richards and Samuel Kinsley (2016)

Film Review

In 2015, the World Economic Forum identified Peru as the country post likely to face life threatening water shortages. Yet as this documentary reveals, Peruvians access to water relates directly to their income. In Lima, rich Peruvians easily access water for their swimming pools and golf courses – and pay less for it than poor Peruvians in the surrounding desert.

Low income Peruvians in standard rental housing pay 50 euros every two weeks for water delivery. The water truck fills their tanks with enough water to supply each member of an average family 200 – 300 liters per day (while rich urbanites pay 5 – 7 euros for a comparable quantity of water).

Residents still have to boil the water to protect their children from diarrheal illnesses.

It’s illegal for the trucks to sell water to Lima residents who are too poor to afford rental accommodation. The latter, who squat on disused land in shacks they build themselves, send their children door-to-dorr with 10 litre plastic jugs to beg water from neighbors who access tap water 1/2 hour a week. Those who share their water face hefty fines from city authorities.

Farmers in nearby mountains use fog nets to catch condensation during winter (four months). They rely on tanker trucks the other eight months.

Many farmers have been forced to give up their farms owing to the boom in water intensive export crops (avocado, asparagus and exotic fruit). Owing to rapid aquifer depletion, the water in their wells is increasingly saline.

The World Bank has become increasingly critical of Peruvian policies that deprive poor residents and farmers of water (in one of the driest countries on Earth) to support a growing export crop industry. They are pressuring Peru’s government (but not very hard it seems) to modernize their water systems to guarantee access to all residents regardless of income.