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Chile needs for framework for wastewater reuse - US expert

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, May 16, 2019
Chile needs for framework for wastewater reuse - US expert

Chile lacks a regulatory framework to carry out wastewater reuse projects, both in the terms of the legal area and in quality standards for treated wastewater to be be reused, according to the vice president of US engineering firm CDM Smith.

During the Water Congress 2019 held in Santiago, Greg Wetterau told BNamericas that the main obstacle for wastewater reuse projects in the country is legal challenges related to downstream users, especially in areas far from the coast.

“In Colorado, they have exactly the same situation. In that situation the downstream users own the water. Colorado is also very dry and they haven't been able to implement this system because of the legal challenges,” he said.

Chile is developing studies for a project to install a 180km pipeline to transport treated wastewater from Santiago to the drought-stricken Valparaíso region, but representatives of the agriculture sector have claimed ownership of this water.

By contrast, he added, California was able to develop wastewater reuse systems by having most of its wastewater treatment plants near the coast.

“The big issue it to get the legal challenges addressed, then get the laws defined. If you can do that, then you need to get the public on board” he said.

During his presentation at the conference, Wetterau explained that while the wastewater reuse sector in the US is expected to triple in size in the next five years, there are only two such projects in Latin America (one in Mexico City and another under study in Sao Paulo).

On that front he said that due to the lack of a federal law in this area, state governments have had to create their own agencies, which in turn have issued their own guidelines on how to develop these projects and the quality standards for the water.

On that front, he suggested that the California model would be useful for the Chilean case. Using this method, treated wastewater percolates into a groundwater basin that supplements drinking water supplies, instead of natural water sources.

*Note: The Water Congress 2019 is organized by Gecamin, the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) of Queensland University and the center for hydrological resources for mining and agriculture (CRHIAM).

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