19 Jan Coquimbo Region, Chile
Posted at 23:34h in Community Stories
The Coquimbo Region is located between the Pacific Ocean and Chile’s Andean Mountains. Its economy is mainly focused on agriculture (for national and international markets) and mining (gold, silver, and copper). The climate is semi-arid with scarce rainfall (100mm per year and decreasing) and limited water supply which greatly depends on ground water and snow melt from the Andean Mountains. Over the last two decades, water reservoirs in the region have been exposed to extreme droughts (longer and more severe) which has led to a reduction of the annual stream-flow, thus intensifying the desertification process in the region. In addition, the legal status of water management and ownership have contributed to greater social inequality. The Water Code of Chile was instituted in 1981, with the intent of efficiently allocating the resource. This gives complete and permanent freedom of use as long as one holds the proper water rights, without requiring owners to state their current or future purpose. This has led to a very competitive water market where large enterprises have bought most of the rights, thus decreasing the amount of water available for farmers. The increasing water scarcity is particularly challenging for the Coquimbo Region’s communities as many make their livelihoods from agriculture and goat farming. Rural Potable Water Committees (RPWC) have formed in response to this reality. These are self-sustaining, communitarian institutions in charge of obtaining, processing and distributing potable water. Though very important stakeholders in the rural areas, RPWC lack networking and coordination capacities. Educating children and their families by improving their understanding of climate change and water conservation has led to significant positive impacts.