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No end in sight to Chile’s drought crisis

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, October 08, 2019
No end in sight to Chile’s drought crisis

Chile’s drought crisis shows no signs of abating as water levels in September remained well below average in key rivers and water stored in reservoirs fell 9% from a year before, despite an 8% increase compared to August.

As of last month, reservoirs were 30% below their average. In the case of mixed use reservoirs, the defect was 50%, while reservoirs for potable water had a 55% deficit. 

Reservoirs just for irrigation has a surplus of 5% surplus and those for electric power generation were 17% above the average, water authority DGA said in a release.

There is over 5.8Mm3 of water stored in reservoirs, or 45% of total capacity, according to DGA.

The worst affected areas in September were Peñuelas in Valparaíso region, Runge in the metropolitan region (which includes Santiago), Culimo in Coquimbo and Tutuvén in Maule. 

All the areas have been declared to be in a hydrological emergency, while the public works ministry (MOP) added two more provinces from Valparaíso region (Quillota and Los Andes) to the list of areas in “hydrological scarcity,” which applies to 93 municipalities nationwide.

WHAT IS BEING DONE

2019 is already the worst drought year in Chile’s history, President Sebastián Piñera said during an agriculture convention. 

“We had to take more drastic, more definitive measures looking ahead,” he said, adding that the government approved a 110bn-peso (US$152mn) budget for irrigation committee CNR.

Piñera’s administration also has a US$6bn plan to build 26 reservoirs, which would increase Chile’s storage capacity by 51% and allow an additional 400,000ha to be irrigated.  

“We have 26 desalination plants in Chile and 20 more projects that are in the works or being planned,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the central bank has admitted that the drought will have an impact on the economy, albeit a limited one. 

“There will be significant social and economic costs for the segment of the population that is being affected more directly,” central bank president Joaquín Vidal said at the same convention. 

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