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Mediacanoa River Basin

The Mediacanoa River is in the centre of the Department of Valle del Cauca, between the Yotoco and Cauca River basins. The communities settled in this watershed do not recognise themselves as part of any ethnic group and are agro-fishers.

This image denotes three types of conflicts identified by linking ES and land use conditions in the basin. Conflict A shows direct drivers such as sugarcane crops, irrigation canals, dams, and grey infrastructure to prevent floods, which have dammed streams, tributary rivers, and dried-up wetland aquatic ecosystems over time. On the margins of the Laguna de Sonso wetlands complex, there are an interpersonal and temporal trade-off by how the communities, fishermen associations, women and others relate the Cauca River and the lagoon, against the interests of supply that predominates for the landowners of the sugar cane crops.Conflicts B and C represent indirect drivers of change that generate cultural and regulatory ES conflicts due to the demographic expansion, the cattle pastures and sugarcane, with the consequent degradation of riparian strips, native forests, and soil fertility, exacerbating the socioecological conflicts between strategic ecosystems (high pollution with alien species) and ecotourism, landscape, and community identity.In Mediacanoa River, the direct drivers of changes are the monoculture of sugar cane and the installation of infrastructure for its production to improve economic sustainability.

The land use and main economic activity in the Medicanoa River Basin are based on the primary sector with banana, soybean, and sugarcane crops, as well as the diverse ecosystem services provided by the Laguna de Sonso, recognised as a RAMSAR site, such as ecotourism, gastronomy, artisanal activities, sport fishing, and, to a lesser extent, the extraction of sand and pebbles. The Mediacanoa River presents highly productive activities with permanent crops (65%), transient crops (7%), and grasslands (3.7%). The Sonso wetland occupies 15% of the total area study. The Claro, Guachal, and Mediacanoa River basins are in the Valle region.Predominant transient crops (494 ha) Permanent cropland (4.62k ha)Pastures (264 ha)Other crop fields (471ha)Laguna de Sonso (1063 ha)

Upper Cauca River Basin

The Upper Cauca River Basin (UCRB) has an altitude range from 4,700 metres above sea level (MASL) at the top of the Puracé volcano and 950 (MASL) in the alluvial valley of the Cauca, with an estimated length of 520 km and an area of 2,180,940 ha (DNP, 2009). The population of the UCRB amounts to 5.9 million people, of which 65% is concentrated in the Department of Valle del Cauca, followed by the Department of Cauca with 15.5%. The urban population in the basin is 75%, and the rural population is 25%. The ethnic population corresponds to 80% “mestizos” and whites, 10% indigenous and 10% Afro-descendant population (MADS, 2020; HUB Colombia Project, 2022; Galvis, 2017). Considering these broad socioeconomic and biophysical characteristics, our research focuses on four sub-basins as case studies that represent the heterogeneity of the UCRB in the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca, which are: Las Piedras, Río Claro, Guachal and Mediacanoa. One of the main demands in the UCRB is potable water for human consumption, together with agro-industrial activities, livestock, and fishing. Water concessions (permissions) for water supply systems are concentrated in the main population centres of the region, such as the municipalities of Popayán with 800 L/s from Las Piedras River, 3.624 L/s L/s in Guachal River, and 745 L/s in Río Claro River. In Río Claro River, water supply is concentrated in communities with high socio-economic status, deepening the socioeconomic gap. These water supply systems provide safe water mainly for urban users; however, the inhabitants of the supply sources located in rural areas of Las Piedras, Guachal, and Río Claro have limited access to drinking water, a situation that deepens the socioeconomic gap in the region and fuels the emergence of water conflicts.

Water quality and quantity

In Mediacanoa, water quality is classified as acceptable, with affectations related to the over-exploitation of its soils, mainly to produce sugar cane. Other industrial and urban discharges not only contaminate the Upper Cauca River Basin (UCRB) but also lead to a process of degradation and eutrophication in the ecosystem of the Laguna de Sonso.