Along steep Andean irrigation systems, resources are associated with prevailing microenvironments. Upstream villages have a more plentiful water supply, while lower lying villages enjoy better climate, superior soil conditions, and more convenient markets. The distribution of these resources affects strategies of cooperation and competition among water users and underlies power relationships between villages. This paper examines the effects of a development project which, through canal construction and improvement, provides a plentiful water supply along an entire canal system. Although beneficial to the downstream communities, this intervention has upset the previous balance of resources between villages. Upstream communities have lost their power base formerly represented by more water, and some control over its distribution further downstream, but have not yet received tangible benefits. Conflicts that previously arose in competition over water now arise over the inequitable distribution of benefits. These conflicts negatively affect the cooperation of water users along the entire canal system. By exploring the problems involved in the development of an ecologically and socio-economically diverse region, this study suggests in-depth research on patterns of social interaction prior to the initiation of a project, to achieve greater satisfaction and sustained cooperation among all groups affected by development.

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