Climate change, drought and overexploitation of water resources

Climate change, drought and overexploitation of water resources

Javier Muñoz, Journal U. Chile, Radio Universidad de Chile, November 30, 2014.

The overexploitation of water resources, climate change and the bad management of resources, maintain the drought in north-central Chile. Although measures are announced, organizations say there is no adequate water policy to change the water inherited reality of the Water Code.

Although Agriculture Minister Carlos Furche predicts a 2015 where agriculture will be starring in the Chilean economy, he said that one problem remains the lack of water, where everything seems insufficient, because the situation would be too severe. In this context the forecast availability of water for the irrigation season 2014-2015, presented in September by the Directorate General of Water is critical, leaving the regions of Atacama, Coquimbo and Valparaiso as the most affected by the lack of rainfall and snow. Atacama has 35 percent water deficit

The regional governor Miguel Vargas Correa says that the effects are manifested mainly in the basins of the Copiapó and Huasco rivers where the resource is over-exploited due to the many economic activities in the region. As measures to cope highlighted the creation of Regional Water Board and the initiatives of the mining industry are beginning to use sea water for their activities including Candelaria, Cerro Verde Manto Pacific and Anglo American. But one of the troubling issues, explains the Mayor, is the water supply for human consumption both in Copiapó Province and the municipality of Chañaral, so as to create a project began to desalinate sea water intended for the population.

Environmental Impact study was delivered by the government, the company Econsa, which is the concessionaire of health services, which depends on the state to make this entity to submit the study to the system. We hope that the study can be evaluated in the next 5-6 months. This plant should be build by 2017 and begin operations in 2018. But for Lucio Cuenca, director of Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA), these measures are isolated and punctual, and are emergency resources to a larger problem dragging a bad management by governments in a democracy. The announcement of the Minister of Agriculture reported that water rights already delivered will not touch, is for Cuenca, terrible news that shows the lack of real political will to change the water conditions beyond drought for lack of precipitation.

There is talk of expiry of water rights but only for new water rights and that represents between 10 and 15 percent of available water in the country, or 85 percent of the rest of the available water that has already been delivered as a right to use water to businesses and individuals for free in perpetuity, that is not going to play. It is not going to intervene in the water situation that the country has today. “One issue that touches himself to Petorca zone, where Cuenca recalls that bad management has concentrated ownership of resources on entrepreneurs and even former members of government showing poor oversight and lack of political will. As former Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma, Mr Trivelli, the former deputy Cerda benefit for the development of agribusiness linked to citrus and avocado trees. Even perverse incentives occur since they are hill slopes even receive without backing water rights, subsidy programs irrigation, irrigation technology in areas even they are not suitable for agriculture, yet with technology the suit and that has also been subsidized by the state. Then there are problems of counterfeit and substandard audit where the government has turned a blind eye on something that has been denounced several years.

To this panorama is added the third report Let’s go down the temperature, published by the World Bank that says conditions such as heat waves and other extreme events that occur every 100 years or more and are considered today as unusual they will become the new climate reality. The paper focuses on the risks for development in three major areas: Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa and parts of Europe and Central Asia, where the likely impacts of current warming are examined 0.8 ° C and projections at 2 ° C and 4 ° C degrees above pre-industrial temperatures, in agricultural production, water resources, ecosystem services and coastal vulnerability for affected populations. In Chile it is noted that the yields of maize crops would be reduced from 5 to 10 percent and wheat between 10 and 20 percent for 2050 year. For Latin America and the Caribbean, altering precipitation cycles, with heavier rainfall and longer droughts, along with the loss of glaciers is expected.

Vladimir Alarcon, Academic School of Civil Works Diego Portales University, who specializes in water resources, explains that if they accept the hypothesis World Bank, the density of ice decrease in the Andes of South America, both the provision of water for drinking and irrigation. Furthermore, it is not only the drought which ends up affecting local economies, but also the extreme changes such as floods. Occur for example, sediment transport, leaching of contaminants, etc. They have a much larger effect on the environment as they do in many extreme conditions and then it also affects the economy of the area that must be taken to mitigate these impacts on rivers and channels, in everything means the watercourse. The specialist also added that the economic effects lie in the rising prices due to the need for farmers to get water at a higher cost of infrastructure and worse, the disappearance of agricultural areas.

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