Uruguay's Santa Lucía river could take 60 years to cleanup - report

Bnamericas Published: Monday, July 15, 2013
It could take a minimum of 60 years to restore the most degraded parts of the Santa Lucía river, Uruguay's main source of potable water, according to a report by local newspaper El Observador. The increasing contamination of the Santa Lucía river, mostly due to wastewaters coming from agriculture and livestock, has become a major threat to the country's water supply, with state water utility OSE having trouble fully treating its water. In March, the situation worsened with smelly tap water causing concern and forcing the government to take action, launching a committee tasked with drafting measures to protect the river. Many of the areas along the river will require starting "from zero," Oscar Blunetto, a researcher at the national agriculture research institute (INIA) was quoted as saying. "There is nothing irreversible but there are areas where to restore them or improve the situation will be incredibly costly due to the level of degradation." REGULATING THE RIVER Defining the zone surrounding the river where soil tillage and the use of chemicals are prohibited is one of the major issues facing the recovery of the river, according to a different report from El Observador. To address this issue the housing, spatial planning and environment ministry (Mvotma) has proposed a zone of 40m for major areas, 20m for tributaries and 100m for reservoirs. In addition, a legislator from the national party, Carmelo Vidalín has also proposed a law that would prohibit the aerial application of chemicals within 500m of water and ground applications within 300m, up from the current limits of 30m and 10m, respectively. However, soil fertility experts believe that such general legislation is not useful because soil conditions vary depending on location. "Putting 20, 50 or 100m [limit around the area] is a problem. The most important thing is to put in vegetation and assuring that sediment doesn't reach the surface," Omar Casanova, a soil fertility expert, was quoted as saying.

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