RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Chile is drying up. In some areas of the country, climate change and poor management have reduced available water by 37% in recent years.
In addition, water, the nourishment of ecosystems, is poorly distributed in the country. According to figures from the Water Defense Movement, Chilean agriculture consumes about 77% of available water, followed by industry and mining with 16%. Drinking water and sanitation account for less than 6% of the total.
More and more Chileans are demanding a reform of the 1981 Water Code, a document drafted during the dictatorship, which separates water from land and has become obsolete. Although in regions such as Petorca 90% of the territory is still covered by extensive avocado crops that demand enormous amounts of water, in this and other regions sustainable agricultural production alternatives are starting to emerge.
This is the case of farmer Iván Aguilera who, using vermiculture and organic waste, manages to retain the humidity of his crops, reducing the need for irrigation by 80%.
Recycling wastewater is another of the strategies used in Chile to tackle the drought. A project implemented by the Chile Foundation changed the life of Cerrillos de Tamaya, a village where wastewater from sinks, bathtubs and washing machines is collected, filtered and purified to irrigate a five-hectare alfalfa field.
Thanks to this initiative, Cerrillos de Tamaya is the only place in the area where cattle do not die of hunger or thirst.
The Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation adds water harvesting to wastewater recycling. In the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve, this foundation installed fog-collecting panels to harvest sea mist.
A country like Chile, with more than 6,000 kilometers of coastline, could thus harvest large quantities of water throughout the country. Un Alto en el Desierto is working with schools in the Coquimbo region in order for the youngest to be the main advocates of water harvesting and recycling.
They are the ones who will have to coexist with the drought for longer, harvesting every last drop.