In Peru’s Deserts, Melting Glaciers Are a Godsend (Until They’re Gone)

A glacier in the Cordillera Blanca region of Peru. Its melting has been a bonanza for farmers, but the water may soon be gone.

Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

In Peru’s Deserts, Melting Glaciers Are a Godsend (Until They’re Gone)

Accelerating glacial melt in the Andes caused by climate change has set off a gold rush downstream, letting the desert bloom. But as the ice vanishes, the vast farms below may do the same.

Written by NICHOLAS CASEY   Photographs by TOMAS MUNITANOV. 26, 2017

VIRU, Peru — The desert blooms now. Blueberries grow to the size of Ping-Pong balls in nothing but sand. Asparagus fields cross dunes, disappearing over the horizon.

The desert produce is packed and shipped to places like Denmark and Delaware. Electricity and water have come to villages that long had neither. Farmers have moved here from the mountains, seeking new futures on all the irrigated land.

It might sound like a perfect development plan, except for one catch: The reason so much water flows through this desert is that an icecap high up in the mountains is melting away.

And the bonanza may not last much longer…