Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

After a century of dreams, Peru finally brings water to the desert

A massive engineering project is underway in Peru to divert water from east of the Andes to irrigate crops in the country's arid west. The Olmos Irrigation Project entails building a 20-kilometre tunnel through the formidable Andes and diverting water that now runs into the Atlantic.

1 of 12

Giovanni Palacios, director and lead engineer of the Olmos Irrigation Project, stands over a construction area of the project in Peru’s northwestern region of Lambayeque, in this March 15, 2013 file photo.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

2 of 12

Irrigation project workers put together a pipeline. Olmos Valley might be a desert now, with rare rains and rivers that trickle to life for just a few months a year, but a radical engineering solution could soon create an agricultural bonanza here.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

3 of 12

Farmer Ricardo Julca is reflected in a puddle while rushing to irrigate his crops after a rare rain in the outskirts of Peru’s Olmos Valley. When the Olmos project is completed, fresh water that now tumbles down the eastern flank of the Andes mountains to the Amazon basin and eventually the Atlantic Ocean will instead move west through the mountains to irrigate this patch of desert on Peru’s coast.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

4 of 12

Mr. Julca jumps a canal while irrigating his crops. Peru is one of the countries most exposed to climate change, according to the United Nations, and Lima is about as dry as Baghdad.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

Story continues below advertisement

5 of 12

Mr. Julca pauses while irrigating his crops. The coastal region of Peru west of the Andes receives just 2 per cent of the country’s fresh water but is home to two-thirds of its population.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

6 of 12

A modern canal under construction in the outskirts of Olmos bears a tape reading, ‘Danger, men at work.’

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

7 of 12

Mamongo Cruz, the manager of a traditional irrigation collective, diverts water from the Olmos River to local farms in Peru’s Lambayeque, in this March 15, 2013 file photo.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

8 of 12

Mr. Cruz helps to divert water from the Olmos River to local farms. Peru’s tropical glaciers, a source of fresh water for millions, are melting away with rising global temperatures.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

9 of 12

Irrigation water pools near passionfruit crops after a rare rain in the outskirts of Olmos.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

10 of 12

Pipelines stock is seen during the construction of the Olmos Irrigation Project, which has so far moved 2.5 million cubic metres of earth and drilled a 20-kilometre tunnel through the Andes.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

11 of 12

A worker helps put together a pipeline during the construction of the Olmos Irrigation Project.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

12 of 12

A Palo Verde tree is seen through a pipeline at the Olmos Irrigation Project.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

Report an error