New Water Partnership in Chile

Posted: 2010-04-19

GWP Chile was accredited as a Country Water Partnership on April 9. In response to a congratulatory letter from GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki, GWP Chile Chair Ms María Angelica Alegria explained some of the water-related challenges facing her nation in light of its recent earthquake.

Impacts en Water Resources after the earthquake and tsunamis in Chile

The main impacts and effects that have been noticed in Chile, regarding water resources and their management vary from the fact that the river basins have changed their geomorphology as well as the courses of major rivers within them because the territory of the country has moved into the ocean and the contact with the marine plate has raised the level of the water bodies. This, in practical terms means that national network of the hydrometerological stations has been destroyed and the measurement of the water flows, both superficial and groundwater will have to be rebuilt. Besides that there will be many other consequences including the social ones such as small fisheries and facilities usually run by families or communities at small scale and transnational companies, at a larger scale, have been affected in a extreme severe way.

Regarding water services, both rural and urban they have been destroyed and up to day, still many families do not have the service available. In this context important changes will come, some of them related to the concept of elevated water storages design that necessarily will change and new technologies are needed now oriented to build lower storage tanks with less risks of destruction or collapse. 700 water services and facilities were destroyed in these disasters, that served to more than 400.000 people. This lack of a vital element has forced people to be more efficient in the use of water and interesting new habits open the door to implement more efficient technologies such as water saving taps, double bottom tanks and water reuse for example.

Also, the earthquake and tsunamis destroyed thousands of irrigation channels in a period of the year when water is needed for the harvest so people and investors are now devoted to get water at any cost and are looking to the groundwater resources which means that wells will be drilled intensively with the consequent overexploitation of aquifers. Also there were effects in the numerous dams we have all along the 4000 kms of length of Chile which have to be continuously monitored and evacuation and prevention plans have had to be implemented to avoid more destructions and casualties.

Finally, we are entering in the winter and the rainy season will mean many floods in places were displaced people is temporally settled, usually in the river plains near the cities which means that more sophisticated early warning systems have to be implemented to avoid more victims and damages. Besides, the enormous quantity of garbage and material from destroyed houses are disposed in the banks of the streams which will mean also pollution problems with floods what will affect the drinking water intakes and will raise the value of the water treatment.

So, the impact in water resources means not only sectoral aspects but in the whole development process of Chile as nation that will take years to overcome, that is why perhaps GWP could collaborate in providing resources to develop studies or projects oriented to find out how to deal or face the consequences of these disasters in the water resources and how to move forward taking in account that water will be an invaluable input or resource for the reconstruction not only related to water infrastructure but in the way how water resources are managed as an input of the planning process and action plan..

About Chile’s current water situation, narrated by GWP Steering Committee member Ms María Angelica Alegria, Head of the National Initiative on Water Efficiency in Santiago, Chile.

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