Chilean lawmaker Adriana Muñoz, from center-left opposition party PPD, has called on the government to reintroduce a constitutional reform to modify the country's water code to guarantee water for public use.
The reform was submitted to congress as a matter of urgency by the government of former president Michelle Bachelet in January 2010. The motion was shelved when Sebastián Piñera took office in March the same year.
Water in Chile is currently being treated as a consumer good, which is purchased and sold without even being used, Muñoz said, adding that water rights are granted for free and in perpetuity.
"The lack of oversight when granting water rights has created over-consumption and scarcity in certain parts of the country, and needs to be revised urgently," Muñoz was quoted as saying in a press release from congress.
Chile's current water code, established in 1981, defines water as a national resource for public use, but the fact that all hydrological resources belong to the nation is not explicit. Water rights are freely granted and the majority of the country's water is under private control.
Earlier this month, a group of Chilean lawmakers from across the political spectrum launched a bipartisan caucus to defend access to water for all citizens, so water is "available to all Chileans and not in the hands of a few companies," fellow PPD lawmaker Cristina Girardi said at the time.