Lawmakers launch bipartisan caucus on water defense

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A group of Chilean lawmakers from across the political spectrum launched a bipartisan caucus to defend access to water for all Chileans.

The group of legislators will look to implement regulatory changes so water is "at the service of all Chileans and not in the hands of a few companies," lawmaker Cristina Girardi of center-left opposition party PPD said in a press release.

One of the bills the group is working on seeks to prohibit the sale of treated wastewater, according to lawmaker Denise Pascal, from opposition party PS.

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Earlier in the year press reports surfaced claiming that some utilities allegedly planned to sell treated water to mining companies rather than returning it to rivers for use in agriculture.

Lawmaker Andrea Molina of right-wing pro-government party UDI called for the government to declare water scarcity in her district, central region V's Petorca province, due to the drought affecting the area and the impact of illegal water extraction.

"We've asked for a meeting with President [Sebastián] Piñera to protect all people without access to water for basic consumption, as well as to protect small and midsize farmers that have lost everything," Molina said.

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.