Chile’s govt slams brakes on new water agency bill

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, April 21, 2022

Chile’s public works minister, Juan Carlos García, has called for a slowdown in legislative discussion of a bill that would create a new water agency that would be part of his ministry (MOP), at least until the status of water has been clearly defined in the new constitution

“We propose to slow down the debate until there is a clearer framework on what will be the status agreed during the constitutional process, in order to define a strategy,” García told the senate water resources committee. 

The bill, which was presented by the previous government, would create a water resources undersecretariat under the MOP.

This new agency would have direct control of water regulator DGA, as well as waterworks agency DOH, which would be divided into a water infrastructure division (DIH) and a rural water services office (DSSR).

The bill would also allow the MOP to carry out desalination projects on its own, even using the concessions system.

There is currently a bill in the senate aimed at establishing a national desalination strategy. García added that this would be one of his legislative priorities and he invited the water resources committee to work with the government to fine-tune the bill.

García said that a national desalination strategy was important and that it also should be part of a wider water management plan that includes regulation strategies, new infrastructure and what he called an "institutional transformation" of the MOP. 

While rains are expected during the southern hemisphere winter, the multi-year drought affecting the country has left capital Santiago on the brink of water rationing, while desalination plants have been backed as an alternative in the drier north.

The new minister also said that the MOP would now seek to extend its relationship with regional administrations, in line with the national decentralization strategy outlined by President Gabriel Boric.

“Now that we have elected regional governments, [the MOP] requires different, much closer work to be done with the regions, in order to define investment priorities and portfolios,” he said.

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