The Andes are defined by human struggles to provide for, and control, water. Nowhere is this challenge more apparent than in the unglaciated western mountain range Cordillera Negra of the Andes where rain runoff provides the only natural source of water for herding and farming economies. Based on over 20 years of systematic field surveys and taking a political ecology and resilience theory focus, this article evaluates how the Prehispanic North-Central highlands Huaylas ethnic group transformed the landscape of the Andes through the largescale construction of complex hydraulic engineering works in the Cordillera Negra of the Ancash Province, North-Central Peru. It is likely that construction of these engineered landscapes commenced during the Middle Horizon (AD 600–1000), reaching their apogee under the Late Intermediate Period (Huaylas group, AD 1000–1450) and Inca (AD 1450–1532) period, before falling into disuse during the early Spanish colony (AD 1532–1615) through a combination of disease, depopulation, and disruption. Persistent water stress in the western Pacific-facing Andean cordillera was ameliorated through the construction of interlinked dams and reservoirs controlling the water, soil, and wetlands. The modern study of these systems provides useful case-studies for infrastructure rehabilitation potentially providing low-cost, though technologically complex, solutions to modern water security.
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