Chile to limit water rights

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Chile plans to limit water rights to 30 years and could revoke them ahead of time, as part of an efficiency overhaul in the sector, La Tercera newspaper reported.

The country has a system of transferable, non-expiring water rights, but President Michelle Bachelet aims to prioritize water for human consumption and increase state control over the sector.

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The presidential delegate for water resources, Reinaldo Ruiz, said the government will tender water rights and reserve the authority to revoke them if it perceives misuse or mismanagement.

"We will have to establish certain factors: forfeiting the right, people who don't use it or don't register it to avoid paying the license," Ruiz told La Tercera in an interview. "Those who misuse or abuse a resource may also lose it.

"The law will allow for the possibility of evaluating the performance of the right-holder. We can establish causes to revoke this right," he added.

Ruiz said current water right-holders will not be affected by the 30-year limit clause, but could see the rights revoked if they misuse or mismanage them.

He added that currently only 10% of water rights have not been awarded.

Chile's proposed reform of water rights and regulations is designed to fight speculators at a time when the country is in the grips of a severe drought.

According to Chile's environment ministry, 73% of the country's water is used for agriculture; industry uses 12%; mining, 9%; and householders, some 6%.

In some areas, such as Copiapó valley in the north, where water is particularly scarce, mines account for up to 31% of water usage. In parts of Tarapacá region (I), copper producers use up to 60% of water.