Chilean businessman draws up US$20bn water corridor project

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Chilean businessman Juan Sutil has been developing a project to build a water corridor in Chile for some time, which would allow water to be transported from one extreme of the country to another.

Under the control of Corporación Reguemos Chile, founded and headed by Sutil, the project has begun to take shape after two years of work and is expected to be presented to the public works ministry (MOP) at the beginning of next year.

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"We hope that the ministry declares the project of public interest and puts it out to tender so that investors can build and explore it," Sutil was reported as saying by local daily Pulso.

The water corridor, estimated to require total investments of US$20bn, includes five stretches that are physically independent from one another. The corridor would allow irrigation in areas of the country that do not have water rights and no other alternatives at present.

"The corridor allows the generation of 1mn new jobs and investments of US$35mn in agricultural plantations and productive logistics. This would be in addition to an increase in agri-food exports from US$16bn to US$64bn by 2036," Sutil added.

The project would allow for the irrigation of an additional 1mn ha of land between the regions of Atacama and La Araucanía, doubling the surface area currently under irrigation.

"The idea is to use the minimum amount of energy possible, so we separate everything by sections so that the water can advance by gravity, minimizing the need for pumping," the businessman said.

The five sections of the corridor would be: from the Biobío to O'Higgins regions, from Maule to the Metropolitan region, from the high regions of O'Higgins to the Corrales reservoir in the Coquimbo region, from Corrales to the Puclaro reservoir, also in the Coquimbo region, and lastly to Huasco in Atacama.

"Chilean food exports have increased 9% in value annually since 2006 to the present, getting even closer to those made by the mining industry. The super cycle of mining has ended and we have to be prepared to face this new reality by taking advantage of our water resources," Sutil added.

A solar plant would also be built in the Atacama region as part of the initiative, to bring water and pump it to the Huasco and Copiapó valleys, as well as a reservoir on the Cachapoal river in O'Higgins region, and an expansion of the Corrales reservoir to double its capacity.

Not only this, but the corridor would also involve implementation of water turbines in open canals or tunnels to generate energy, as well as solar panels on 25% of the infrastructure from Santiago to the north.

"This new energy generation would be twice that generated by the Colbún power plant at present," Sutil was quoted as saying.