Management Framework of the Water Resources of the La Plata Basin with respect to the Effects of Climate Variability and Change

September 2001 marked the IV Inter American Dialogue on Water Management, which took place in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil. The meeting was scientific in nature and was attended by representatives of the five countries which had signed the La Plata Basin Treaty- Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Those present at the meeting concluded that it was necessary to take an initiative towards the integrated management of water resources in La Plata Basin. The initiative was promoted within the framework of Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee (CIC), established in 1969 by the five countries where the basin is located.

Those present concluded the following as integral main points:

  1. Having a framework for coordinating action between countries in integrated water resources management in La Plata Basin;
  2. Carrying out projects in the common interest of all parties and selecting concrete actions which are properly prioritized;
  3. Giving priority to recurrent flood and drought problems that occur in the basin;
  4. The need to address the integrated water resources management of the entire basin and act within the framework of La Plata Basin Treaty signed by the above mentioned governments in 1969.
  5. Act as a support to the CIC and facilitate the assistance of the CIC to the Brazilian government, in their request of a PDF, Block A, through UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), in order to advance in these recommendations.

La Plata Basin, historically colonized by the Spanish and Portuguese in search of mineral riches, is the current day site of rich oil and gas deposits and large deposits of iron in the upper Paraguay River Basin. In the past, the Paraná, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers were the routes where both colonization and regional trade occurred. Buenos Aires, La Plata and Montevideo are international harbors located the La Plata river system, which act as gateways of the Basin to world trade.

With 3,100,000 km2, La Plata Basin is the fifth largest in the world. Its area is approximately a third of the total area of United States and almost equal to the sum of the area of all countries of the European Union. The three main rivers in the basin, the Paraná (4,352 km), the Paraguay (2,459) and the Uruguay (1,600 km), are the largest in the world. The estuary1 of La Plata river is the widest in the world (its external limit measures 256 km), and the average annual of river affluent2 to South Atlantic is 23,000 m3/seg. La Plata Basin includes sizeable parts of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay, while the entirety of Paraguayan territory is contained in the Basin. Chart 1 presents the basin area with the division of the three main sub watersheds and their distribution into each country.

La Plata Basin offers one of the most productive and diverse marine ecosystems in the world. In addition, the water that infiltrates this basin generates the largest volume recharge of groundwater system that is part of Guarani Aquifer. One of the largest continental quality water reservoirs in the world, whose study, protection and management is the object of another project financed by GEF (Environmental Protection and Sustainable Management of Guarani Aquifer system).


The increase of sediment volumes transported and deposited in the rivers is caused principally by deforestation, the increase in agriculture border and consequent water erosion. This build up of sediment has produced restriction in navigation, a problem countries involved search to resolve with the establishment of deepening Paraná-Paraguay channel via Water. Today, the five countries of the CIC are looking for an economic travel route through this river system, in order to trade considerable exports of grains and iron. The nations of the CIC are also looking to improve the connection between the Caceres Harbor, in Upper Paraguay, and the Nueva Palmira Harbor, in Uruguay (3,600 km). The effects on the water dynamic and the environment, especially of Pantanal wetland, need to be followed and analyzed in order to adapt the project to prevent the deterioration of this vital ecosystem basin water regulator.

Project Goals

The project’s goal is to build a partnership to assist the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to strengthen their vision on the economic development and sustainable social environment in the La Plata Basin. It is based on the protection and integrated management of water resources, as well as on and the adaptation to climate variability and climate change.

Coordinated by the Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee of the La Plata Basin countries (CIC), the project will prepare and consult with the countries in a Strategic Framework Programme Action to sustainable management in the La Plata Basin.


1 estuary: part of the mouth or lower course of a river in which the river’s current meets the sea's tide.

2 affluent: a branch that flows into the main stream, a feeder


Implementing Agency: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Regional Executive Agency: Organization of American States/Department of Sustainable Development (OAS/DSD)
Local Executing Agency: Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee for the La Plata Basin Countries (CIC)


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November 13-19 2011. Medellin, Colombia. Seventh Inter-American Dialogue on Water Management (D7)


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