Govt must improve coordination of water management policy - expert

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chile's government needs to do a better job of coordinating water management policy, the administrator of the Copiapó basin groundwater user group (Casub) in northern region III, Carlos Araya, told BNamericas.

Earlier this year, general water authority DGA granted water rights and authorized digging wells in areas where the Copiapó river has dried up, putting local fauna and wetlands at risk, Araya said on the sidelines of national irrigation commission CNR's first annual meeting.

"The next week, on World Wetlands Day, the governor and [national forestry service] Conaf were out there saying that we have to protect this heritage. And DGA, on the other hand, says no, there's nothing there, dig wells, take all the water that's left," Araya said.

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Water rights authorized in the area are unsustainable and irrigation organizations need to ration their own usage according to local conditions, Araya said during a presentation at the conference.

If local users consumed all the water they were authorized to take, they would be extracting water from the aquifer faster than it can be replenished, creating a deficit of some 3.5m3/s. The water would run out within five years, according to the official.

"That's one of the things we're bringing to the table; we need to be sustainable," Araya added.

Along with pushing for sustainable management, Casub aims to improve efficiency. Some 95% of the group's members are already using improved technology for irrigation; however, there is room to improve in efficiently matching irrigation techniques with crops.

Those improvements will also lead to better environmental conditions and savings in other areas, such as energy and fuel, Araya said.