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Water Quality in Chile: A Multifaceted Problem

Water Quality in Chile
Water quality in Chile includes many facets and issues that must be resolved. One recent event that has drawn attention to this issue is a drought during the weekend of Feb. 25, affecting five million people. This water quality emergency is due to runoff and debris in the Maipo River, the main water supply for Chile’s capital Santiago. Runoff is created by drought and wildfires, making it difficult for the land to retain water. When land is unable to retain water, mudslides are created and debris flows.

Chile measures the levels of precipitation, surface water, groundwater and water needed to remove the pollution in order to access its water footprint. These standards were created by the Water Footprint Network and the Chile Foundation.

Not only does poor water quality affect citizens in Chile, it affects entire industries. Copper is a major export from Chile, and mines must use expensive desalination technology in order to have suitable water. In addition, poor water quality affects agriculture. There are projects in place to improve both the removal of contaminants and water quality.

Former military ruler General Pinochet made water a private commodity in Chile in 1980, a move meant to encourage investment in infrastructure used to distribute water. In reality, privatizing water has created high tariffs and removed the incentive to distribute water in low-income areas. Citizens have to pay for water and to have their water quality improved. The Chilean government has a plan to invest $5 billion into irrigation projects by 2022 and encourage private sector investment into these projects.

Water quality in Chile is a multifaceted problem to solve, but there is impressive research and progress being made to resolve it.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr