How long will Chile's water scarcity last?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Chile's water scarcity will continue for several years, pressuring President Michelle Bachelet's administration to develop reservoirs and technology to improve water efficiency.

"Over the coming years, we'll have less water available," Agriculture minister Carlos Furche told CNN Chile. "We'll face an irregular water flow or scarcity."

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Chile is dealing with a five-year drought that has region IV facing its worst water crisis in a century, while the overuse of aquifers in certain areas has dramatically reduced water resources.

More than 10 provinces in northern region IV, central region V and southern regions VII and VIII are under water scarcity conditions, meaning authorities have extraordinary powers to secure potable water supply.

Chile plans to invest US$4.87bn through 2022 to increase reservoir capacity 30%, canal networks by 1,000km and irrigated land by 253,000ha.

"We need to move forward with investments faster than in the past," Furche said.

Irrigation efficiency has improved significantly in recent years, but with huge disparities, ranging from 30% to 90% depending on location, according to national irrigation commission (CNR) head Patricio Grez.

CNR has a budget of 41bn pesos (US$75mn) to upgrade irrigation systems across the country.