When the tap across from her mud-walled home dried up in September, Celia Cruz stopped making soups and scaled back washing for her family of five. She began daily pilgrimages to better-off neighborhoods, hoping to find water there.
Though she has lived here for a decade and her husband, a construction worker, makes a decent wage, money cannot buy water.
"I'm thinking of moving back to the countryside; what else can I do?" said Ms. Cruz, 33, wearing traditional braids and a long tiered skirt as she surveyed a courtyard dotted with piglets, bags of potatoes and an ancient red Datsun. "Two years ago this was never a problem. But if there's not water, you can't live."
The glaciers that have long provided water and electricity to this part of Bolivia are melting and disappearing, victims of global warming, most scientists say.
If the water problems are not solved, El Alto, a poor sister city of La Paz, could perhaps be the first large urban casualty of climate change. A World Bank report concluded last year that climate change would eliminate many glaciers in the Andes within 20 years, threatening the existence of nearly 100 million people.
Times Watch could not locate the World Bank report in question, but this excerpt  from a related article suggests hyperbole on the part of the Times:
A prime example of the current effects of climate change and of the attempts of engineers to adapt to them is provided by the disappearing glaciers in the Andes. "These glaciers provide an important economic and environmental service in the Andes. They are the source of water for human consumption, for ecosystem integrity, for power supply, and for agriculture," said Walter Vergara, the lead engineer for environmentally and socially sustainable development in the World Bank's Latin American and Caribbean division. The glaciers have been receding since the 1970s, and they are projected to disappear within the next few decades, according to Vergara. As a result, the surrounding vegetation, which includes the unique Andes wetlands, is likely to wither and disappear, he said, affecting the lives of more than 100 million people, disrupting the area's entire ecosystem, and making the region more susceptible to fire.
There is apparently a rule that any piece of environmental scare-mongering has to include a tasteless comparison to the 9-11 terrorist attacks:
Glaciers are part of the majestic landscape here, visible from almost everywhere in the neighboring cities of La Paz and El Alto, each with one million people. Their disappearance from certain vistas is as startling to Bolivians as the absence of the twin towers is to New Yorkers.
In the last few years, Bolivian lives have also been buffeted by an almost biblical array of extreme weather events, many of which scientists believe are probably linked to climate change - though this is currently difficult to prove because poor countries like Bolivia have little long-term scientific data. This year brought scorching temperatures and intense sun. A drought killed 7,000 farm animals and sickened nearly 100,000.