Chile: What is the water situation in the north of the country?

Since the year 2007, the north of Chile has experienced a harsh situation that has affected a large number of farmers, lack of rainfall translated into a severe drought.

Lack of rain and little snow, meant that the reserves and thaws in summers have been scarce, causing the water accumulated in dams gradually falling to dramatic levels. Thus, for the 2015, all the dams in the Coquimbo Region had less than 10% of their storage capacity.

To learn more about this crisis in the north of the South American country, at we spoke with Juan Ferrada, production manager of Tecnocitrus, who spoke to us about the current needs of the region.

"This drought led to the agriculture of the region to suffer enormously, many hectares of sensitive crops such as avocados were lost, but also more tolerant crops such as grapes or citrus", Informed Ferrada.

As indicated, a cadastre carried out by the Sociedad Agrícola del Norte, in total there is talk of 31 thousand hectares lost to the 2015 year, due to the lack of water.

"They also lost many hectares of vegetables, which have been very affected in recent years".

Although during 2015 the region received some rainfall, it was not until 2016 that they were able to recover a little bit of the level.

"It was improving the situation, but not at all gave an optimistic vision of the future", Assured Ferrada, adding that today there is much uncertainty.

For this 2017, the situation has taken a turn in the north of Chile, favoring the levels of water accumulation in all the dams in the region.

Thus, to date the Cogotí and Recoleta Reservoir are at their maximum capacity, while the Paloma Reservoir is the largest, is around 600 million cubic meters with a maximum capacity of 750 million.

"This difference that is missing, is expected to be completed now in the month of November, so this dam would also remain with its maximum capacity", he pointed.

Ferrada continues commenting that "This is the current situation, but for the agricultural world, despite being a situation that gives us some energy to move forward, there is still uncertainty about what will happen, how true will climate change be in the short or medium term".

"The drought gave us a lesson, did not go unnoticed in what is the management of the water of the dams".

La Paloma Reservoir, January 2013

"Since the Paloma dam exists, there was no management associated with saving and caring for the resource, there was always rainfall, this drought taught us that this could not happen. Now there is a water saving policy and greater efficiency in driving this resource"He explained.

Some of the measures that were taken were plasticizing channels, vaulting with concrete and in some cases pipe.

"An important result was obtained, making it possible to ensure that the water currently accumulated can last for 5 years".

Despite this, Juan Ferrada indicated that there is still much to be done, but that they are mainly measures that must come from the State, such as the construction of smaller dams that can be built in the upper area of ​​the mountain range so that they are capable of Supply water every summer.

"Generally there is precipitation in the winter, even if it is small, but it would help to give an irrigation security to the low areas".

"An example is the dam project in the Rapel River, Montepatria commune, in which no progress is being made, it is being detained".

Many were affected by this adverse climate, so several nurseries suffered the consequences having to close some of them due to lack of demand.

"In the case of Tecnocitrus, apart from nurseries we have some plantations, and our dedication to the citrus, which have had a better demand, allowed us to stay in the market, and be able to wait for the situation to change, but the crisis led to a heavy debt and in many cases to lose the properties"Ferrada said.

He added that research on crops that have profitability and tolerance to drought are an alternative for the region.

For example, he mentioned that it has been seen that the almond tree tolerates greater water stress.

"It is an alternative, but already sensitive crops such as the avocado practically disappeared and you do not see the intention of replanting in an important way, nobody wants to risk".

"The farmers of the III and IV region suffer greatly the drought and I think there is a lack of concern of the State. There is a lot of talk, but the drought is happening and today we do not see state actors proposing ideas about it, they have to do a part that has to do with the infrastructure"He concluded.

Source: Fruit Portal

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