A new university study shows global heating and increasing drought will cut available water in Chile by fifty percent only a decade from now.
The family farm shown here in April 2020 had just experienced its first rainfall in nine months, just before this shot was taken. It is typical of the serious drought already gripping the country. Photo: Aniseh S. Bro, via Twitter
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chile, based the study on several factors.
The group began by analyzing what has already begun to happen to the country’s existing network of 174 watersheds. The data shows water availability already dropped by 37 percent just in that short time period, leaving much land bone dry and aquifers near-empty.
Then they made projections of likely scenarios related to increased global heating in the region.
A separate analysis looked at drought which is expected to get worse within only a few years. The researchers determined the central region of the country would drop in rainfall by as much as 25 percent from normal, just ten years from now. In the same time period, the south is projected to plummet by 40 percent from normal.
After the study was released on January 14, the Greenpeace organization issued a statement supporting the dire conclusions of the researchers. “Chile is ranked 18th on the list of states that are on the verge of falling into extreme water stress,” it said.
Greenpeace coordinator Estefania Gonzalez warned that state water rights policies were a major contributing factor to what was happening in Chile. He spoke of how water in Chile is currently “bought as property titles, so transnational companies own entire rivers.”
“State policy is going in the opposite direction to Chile's and the world's climatic and hydrological reality. Meanwhile, rainfall and water availability are decreasing," he continued.
Greenpeace experts noted that, “President Sebastian Piñera's government prioritizes that water is in the hands of a few.” They are lobbying that the new Constitution currently being prepared should change policies to correct this.
While the climate crisis is going to make things worse, reallocating water so a larger percentage is provided to the people could have a dramatic effect on improving water availability. At this time, the people only receive two percent of the country’s water. The other 98 percent is controlled by the mining, forestry, and agricultural industries.
The only positive in the current analysis is the conclusions are severe for all users of water, whether for public or private use. So something will need to happen to help all stakeholders, regardless of the outcome.