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La Plata Basin.pdf


Department
Earth Sciences
Course Code
EARTHSC 2WW3
Professor
Luc Bernier

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1
Practice Case Study #1
Read the short text below. Use your knowledge and understanding of the course material
to answer the set of questions which follows it, and which are all based on this case study
Extending over 3.1 million km2, La Plata
River basin is the second largest river
system in South America and the fifth
largest in the world. Shared by Argentina,
Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, it
covers about one-fifth of South America.
With over 100 million inhabitants, close to
50 big cities and 75 large dams, La Plata
River basin is at the core of the region’s
socio-economic activities, which generate
around 70% of the per capita GDP of the
five basin countries..
With its extensive geographic coverage, La Plata River basin is highly variable topographically,
ranging from 4,000 metre high mountains in north-western Argentina and southern Bolivia to
almost sea level southern plains in Argentina and Uruguay. Rainfall similarly varies, from less
than 700 mm per year in the western Bolivian highlands to more than 1,800 mm per year along
the Brazilian coast in the east. The basin is also rich in groundwater resources. The Guaraní
aquifer, shared by all five countries except Bolivia, is one of the world’s largest groundwater
reservoirs, extending over 1.19 million km2 and having an estimated capacity of 37,000 billion
m3. Of this, 40 billion m3 to 80 billion m3 per year is exploited, mainly in Brazil for consumption
in over 300 cities.
Of the overall agricultural area in La Plata River basin, the share of irrigated land is relatively
low, varying from 2% in Paraguay to 15% in Uruguay. On the other hand, in all the basin
countries agriculture holds the largest share of overall water consumption: from 62% in Brazil to
96% in Uruguay. Moreover, increased average annual rainfall, coupled with the promotion of
soybeans as the key crop, has resulted in expansion of agriculture, especially towards historically
arid and semi-arid zones. Urbanization is one of the biggest drivers of change in La Plata River
basin. From the 1960s to the early 2000s, the share of urban dwellers in the region’s population
increased from about 45% to 86.6%, mainly through internal migration.
Answer the following questions: (next page)

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1. The regional climate is significantly impacted by the El Nino Southern Oscillation. This is
accompanied by:
a) droughts
b) flooding
c) light rains
2. Existing water supply problems in Northern Argentina may worsen, which may require
changes, EXCEPT one of the following:
a) changes in crop type.
b) change to flood irrigation.
c) changes in cultivation frequency
d) changes in drainage methods.
3. The combination of climate change and intensive agriculture could lead to:
a) increased eutrophication.
b) increased soil productivity.
c) increased salinization.
4. While the number of connections to water utilities in the basin is greater in urban areas than in
rural areas, access to safe water is in fact lower in urban areas because of:
a) poorly maintained infrastructure
b) decreased water losses in the distribution system.
c) constant service provision.
5. With increased migration to cities all around the basin, direct discharge of sewage effluents
MOST likely impacts:
a) upstream slums
b) upstream city cores
c) downstream slums
6. The Hidrovia Paraguay – Parana diversion project between Uruguay and Brazil has been
proposed in the late 1980s, but would NOT entail which of the following?
a) increased dredging
b) decreased dredging.
c) construction of dykes and levees
d) channel straightening
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