Lauca River

The Lauca River is a binational river. It originates in the Chilean Altiplano of the Arica and Parinacota Region, crosses the Andes and empties into Coipasa Lake in Bolivia.

Lauca River
Valle del río Lauca, Región de Arica y Parinacota.JPG
Departments (BO)
Regions (CL)
Physical characteristics
SourceParinacota wetlands
 • locationParinacota Province
 • elevation4,350 m (14,270 ft)
MouthCoipasa Lake
 • location
Sabaya Province
Length225 km (140 mi)
 • average0.79 m3/s (28 cu ft/s)

The upper reach of the river lies within the boundaries of Lauca National Park in the Parinacota Province. Lauca River receives waters from a group of lakes known as Quta Qutani through the Desaguadero River. In this area there is a type of marsh known as Parinacota wetlands, in which converge several streams, being the more important the river just mentioned, which has a variable flow rate ranging from 100 to 560 l/s, and an average of 260 l/s.

From its source in the Parinacota wetlands the river flows west. The spurs of the Cordillera Central (also known as Chapiquiña) form an obstacle impossible to pass through, forcing the river's course southward. In the vicinity of Wallatiri volcano, the Lauca turns again, now eastward crossing from Chile into Bolivia at the latitude of Macaya, at an elevation of 3,892 m asl and with a flow rate about 2,6 m³/s. In Chile the river drains an area of 2,350 km².[1]

In the Bolivian Altiplano, the Lauca collects the waters of the rivers Sajama and Coipasa, raising its flow rate up to 8 m³/s before turning south to empty into Coipasa Lake, close to the salt flat of the same name.

During the 1930s, the Chilean government begun to use the hydrical resources of Lauca river for irrigation in the Azapa Valley, generating a complaint from Bolivian government who argued that Chilean authorities were altering the course of an international river. Chile answered that the natural course of the river was not modified, but the works executed were related to the use of waters in the Parinacota wetlands, which not affect the total water flow of the Lauca in its course to Bolivia. The litigation between both countries, started in 1939, caused diplomatic tension until the 1960s.[2]


  1. ^ (in Spanish) Cuenca del río Lauca Archived 2007-07-03 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ TERENCE R. LEE, The Management of Shared Water Resources in Latin America, page , retrieved on 15 June 2012
  • This article draws heavily on the corresponding article in the Spanish-language Wikipedia, accessed March 31, 2007.
  • Niemeyer, Hans; Cereceda, Pilar (1983). Geografía de Chile — Tomo VIII: Hidrografía (1º edición, Santiago de Chile: Instituto Geográfico Militar ed.).

Coordinates: 19°23′00″S 68°10′00″W / 19.3833°S 68.1667°W / -19.3833; -68.1667