During the last decades, agriculture has drastically increased over the South American Andean Plateau (Altiplano), resulting in extensive changes in land cover from native vegetation to essentially Quinoa crop. Along with climatic variability, these land use changes appear as a catalyst in worsening the already existing drought events and water scarcity processes. Hence, understanding their relative contributions to the regional desertification process is crucial for sustainable water-use adaptation, but also is quite ambiguous because of water resource data scarcity over the Altiplano. Therefore, in the present study, an attempt to measure the impact of severe droughts and agricultural intensification on the water resources has been made using remote sensing datasets. The first step was dedicated to the validation of newly released CHIRPS v.2 precipitation and GLEAM v.3 potential evapotranspiration products by comparing their estimates with the results obtained from gauges data. Then, the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was used to describe past hydro-meteorological drought events in terms of their spatial extent, duration, intensity and their impacts on the regional water resources. Finally, the dynamic trends in the spatial extent of the Quinoa crop and the meteorological conditions derived from CHIRPS v.2 and GLEAM v.3 were compared with the Vegetation Condition Index (VCI) and the Total Water Storage (TWS) derived from AVHRR and GRACE data respectively, to observe the respective influence of agriculture and climate variability on the regional hydrological system. A significant increase in Quinoa crop extent is observed from 2001 which corresponds to a significant decrease in regional VCI and TWS. Based on this trend, agriculture appears as a contributing factor in the water scarcity process over the Altiplano. The outcomes of this study will contribute to local decision making for a better water management and hydro-meteorological monitoring system.
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