Chile's lower house treasury committee okays new water code

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A controversial water reform that would result in changes to the water code of the Chilean constitution is marching forward, as the lower house treasury committee approved the bill that prioritizes water for human consumption.

The proposal was approved with eight votes in favor, all members of the Nueva Mayoría [the ruling coalition], and five against. Those in favor valued the scope of the project and the potential to end speculation on water usage rights, while those opposed indicated that the cost of the initiative has not been determined, as well as potential problems with changes to the regulations, according to a release from the chamber of deputies.

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Deputy Manuel Monsalve underlined his satisfaction with the approval, saying: "This is an initiative that puts water, a national asset for public use, in its proper place. First, by establishing priorities for its use, which may seem logical, but they were not written into any law."

Monsalve also said that first priority of water use is for human consumption, then basic services and then for the productive sector. He also underlined that the initiative is aimed at protecting the sustainability of water resources by establishing minimum ecological flows and keeping these from being used.

Meanwhile, deputy Daniel Núñez acknowledged that he would have preferred a more extensive reform of the system, but said that an important step had been taken to define water as a resource that belongs to all Chileans.

"It is tremendously important that it was approved by the treasury committee, because after a very long process that went through the water resources and agriculture committees, we can now put it to the vote," Núñez added.

Back in June, the lower house agriculture committee also approved the proposal. Later Chilean business chamber CPC condemned the proposed reform, and think-tank Libertad y Desarrollo (LyD) said it did not recommend approval of the amendment to the constitution.

The initiative will now be voted on by the lower house before heading to the senate.