Water resources have been reduced by more than a third in three decades due to climate change. Chile has lost at least 37% of its water resources in the last 30 years, according to the most recent National Water Balance, carried out in 2017 by the General Water Directorate, under the Ministry of Public Works.
"Global warming has several implications, one is that it increases the temperature of the planet, but the other implication is that the distribution of rain is altered and in particular, southern and central Chile are in that category," Roberto told the press. Rondanelli, a chemical civil engineer from the University of Chile and an expert in meteorology.
According to Rondanelli, rainfall in the central area of the country has decreased at a rate of 5% per decade for half a century and if that rate is maintained, by the end of the century a reduction of 30% can be expected.
The Nature Conservancy, an international organization dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and the environment, maintains that one of the areas most affected by the overexploitation of water sources is the so-called Chilean “Mediterranean”, which covers 20% of the surface of the country and where 75% of the population lives, in addition to being the national agricultural nucleus.
"Chile has one of the five Mediterranean ecoregions in the world, and its mild winters and hot, dry summers offer ideal conditions for agriculture and other productive activities," he says. “Like many of the Mediterranean regions, it faces the challenge of having less water while demand grows. It has also been affected by the overexploitation of tributaries, which is damaging the ecology of its hydrological basins and putting nature, biodiversity and people at risk ”.
“Climate change has brought with it extreme weather events, including droughts, mudslides, floods and forest fires that have affected nature, cities and the entire population. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Maipo basin, in the center of the country ”, adds The Nature Conservancy. “The Maipo River is born on the western slope of the volcano that gives it its name, and runs down from the Andes mountain range to the Pacific Ocean. Its basin supplies 80% of the water consumed in Santiago, the national capital, in addition to the fact that the agricultural and industrial sectors that make up almost half of the Chilean gross domestic product depend on its channel ”.
Mountain range without snow
The waters of the Maipo come from both winter rainfall and mountain melting; its average flow is 92.3 m³ / s. The increase in temperature has caused the snow to melt earlier than expected, which causes the rivers to increase their flow in the rainy season and dry out during the summer. Experts predict that before 2070 the availability of water in the Maipo will be reduced by 40% due to the melting of the glaciers.
“Hydrology in Chile depends to a large extent on the snow that falls on the mountain range. If it were due to the precipitation in the valleys, Santiago would probably not have enough water to sustain its productive activities or human consumption, ”said Rondanelli.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2019, prepared by the German non-governmental organization Germanwatch, Chile is ranked 16th among the countries in the world most affected by climate change. Chile meets seven of the nine characteristics of vulnerability to climate change defined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: low-rise coastal areas; arid, semi-arid zones, with forest cover and exposed to forest deterioration; small island areas; propensity to natural phenomena; areas prone to drought and desertification; urban areas with air pollution problems, and areas with fragile ecosystems, such as glaciers, whose melting has resulted in a problem of water scarcity.
Francisco Cereceda, professor in the Department of Chemistry at the Federico Santa María Technical University, located in Valparaíso, and director of the Center for Environmental Technologies, assured that the south-central area of the country will be among the most affected by climate change.
"We have the melting of glaciers in the central-south zone, desertification and water scarcity, the increase in temperatures with 'heat waves', the higher frequency of forest fires, product of the lethal combination that is the '30 + 30 + 30 '(30% humidity, 30º temperature and 30 m / s wind speed) since this conjunction makes the optimal conditions for the generation of fires, phenomena more visible by the population, ”he said.
Added to the hydrological changes is the mining exploitation that has destroyed glaciers that maintain the hydric and climatic balance of the basins, supplying water to rivers, lakes and underground waters. 70% of the 18 million inhabitants of the country are supplied with water that comes from the high Andean areas.
Numerous concessions and mining operations are in areas of water scarcity, such as the Atacama desert, in the far north.
For Roberto Moncada, spokesperson for the Defense Movement for Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection, Chile is experiencing a water crisis “that is unparalleled in the country's history. And this is intimately associated with a development model based on the dispossession of common natural assets, a development model that does not tremble in appropriating water to the detriment of the life of the communities ”.
Source: Allied Communications