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Situation of the Basin

Posted by: mzcarvaj

July 14, 2016

According to the figures announced by the Banco Central (Central Bank of Chile), in 2013 the GDP of the O’Higgins Region reached the $ 5.625.324, representing the 4,11% of the national GDP. The economic activity of the region is based mainly in those related to agriculture and mining. Actually, within the regional GDP, the two sectors that contribute the most are mining (23,6%) and silvo-agricultural and rural (13,5%) sectors. Water is a very relevant input for both sectors. While irrigation represents aproximately the 90% of the consumptive use of the regions, mining represents about 5%. Other important consumptive uses are those of sanitation and industry. Water is also relevant for hydroelectricity, for tourism and for the preservation of biodiversity of the region.

While the situations regarding availability of water in the region has not been a problem in the past, for a the past few years, the situation has been changing. In fact, during the 2011-2012 season, 22 comunes of the region declared an agricultural state of emergency following a severe water deficit. This has diverse causes. On the side of supply, there is currently an important deficit of rain (-35%) and the seasonal flow rates have diminished notoriously (-45%); further more, the current availability of snow is less than a few years ago. It is very likely that due to climate change, the availability of water that comes from these sources will be diminished during the coming decades. Actually, the projections of climate change in Chile indicate a tendency towards warming throughout the whole country, a long with signs of a reduction of precipitations (20-30%) for the most part of the northern center and southern center at the end of the XXI century. The supply of water of the region will also be affected in terms of quality, mainly due to the growth of domestic and industrial discharges, and the diffused contamination of pesticides. On the side of demand, there is a growth of activities of all sectors that consume water: agriculture, mining, energy, citizens, tourism, etc. Given this scenario, the region is facing an important challenge in matters of the management of water resources, especially if it wants to consolidate itself as an agro-food power.

Additionally, it is likely that further requirements are added to the aforementioned requirements, requirements of citizens than demand water resources for the regions that not only serve productive means, but also ecological means, which implies that a large portion of the water that runs through the basin will not be extracted.