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Wastewater reuse seen as a solution to Chile's water crisis

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Wastewater reuse seen as a solution to Chile's water crisis

Wastewater reuse will become important in tackling Chile’s water crisis, and the approval of a new water code earlier this year positioned the country better to explore this mechanism, according to the CEO of the Santiago-Maipo water fund, Claudia Papic.

“I believe water reuse is the future, both through reusing graywaters, which is being developed more and more in Chile, and wastewater reuse as [utility] Aguas Andinas is doing,” Papic told BNamericas on the sidelines of the formal launch of the Expo Agua Santiago forum, which will be held on October 13. 

Chile passed a law regulating graywater management and reuse in 2018, although the health ministry (Minsal) must still give the green light before it can be applied. 

Meanwhile, the water code passed earlier this year states that all basins must count with a long-term management plan that can include graywater and wastewater reuse, which Papic said will ease regulatory problems that prevented deeper exploration of wastewater reuse.

“If we could use the water resources we have nowadays two or three more times, we would be increasing our water availability by 200% or 300%,” Papic said.

She even added that the water provisions in the proposed new constitution, which would eliminate private water property rights, wouldn’t necessarily be an impediment for wastewater or graywater reuse, since it doesn’t mention them explicitly.

At the launch event, the academic director of the Water Economy Forum, Estanislao Arana, said wastewater reuse will be key to combat water scarcity. 

“In order to harmonize the increasing scarcity of the resource with population and demand increase predicted for the next decades, it is imperative to develop alternative water sources, for which regenerated water has an essential central role,” he said, adding public-private cooperation is crucial. 

WATER FUNDS

The Santiago-Maipo fund was the first water fund created in Chile, and is currently working alongside public and private actors to coordinate water management and conservation projects for the Metropolitan region. 

One such project is a free access information platform the fund is developing with the regional government.

Papic said the fund doesn’t plan to carry out projects on its own, but facilitate coordination in a scenario in which there are a lot of similar water initiatives. 

“We’re not going to tell anyone ‘don’t do your [project], cooperate with this other one,’ but to connect those projects and to support as a water fund what [a project] may be lacking to expand its scope, deepen its impacts or to replicate them when appropriate.”

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