President Piñera creates National Water Committee to address water crisis: “We must act with urgency, unity and intelligence.”
The members of the committee will propose a plan to address the drought that is focused on three areas: the foundations of a long-term water policy, water infrastructure planning and the institutional and legal framework. The government is also promoting the campaign www.cuidemoselagua.cl so that members of the public can contribute to these efforts in their daily lives.
President Sebastián Piñera presided over the setting up of the National Water Committee at La Moneda Palace on Wednesday. The body will propose a plan to address the country’s water scarcity crisis.
The government is developing a set of short-, medium- and long-term measures to address the emergency. The goal is to ensure that people have a sufficient supply of water while implementing a plan that allows economic and productive activity, agricultural and livestock development, tourism and other activities to continue.
During the meeting, which was attended by the Ministers of Public Works, Agriculture, Energy, Science, the Minister Secretary General of the Presidency, as well as members of Congress, academics and experts, the President stated that Chile must adjust to the changes that it is experiencing. “Water availability in our country has changed, and we must prepare to address that new reality.”
The National Water Committee will focus on three areas: the foundations of long-term water policy, water infrastructure planning and the institutional and legal framework. The entity will meet on Mondays and will issue its first report in 60 days.
“This is an emergency approach; an approach with both immediate solutions and a long-term perspective,” President Piñera explained.
The work of this entity will be complemented by the Water Resources Ministerial Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the Public Works, Agriculture, Environment, Interior, Energy and Science Ministries, as well as the Water Emergency Operations Committee, an executive body coordinated by the Public Works Undersecretary.
“We must act with urgency, unity and intelligence,” the President said.
The Operations Committee is being replicated in various regions of the country. President Piñera led the launch of the first such entity in the municipality of Punitaqui in the Coquimbo Region. The bodies will be headed up by the regional governors and will be responsible for assessing the problems, prioritizing assistance through the distribution of residential water and food for animals and planning what resources are needed. These committees are already operational in the Coquimbo, O’Higgins and Maule Regions and will be formed in the coming days in the Atacama, Valparaíso and Metropolitan Regions. These six regions are facing a water shortfall that is causing a number of problems.
President Piñera has issued 14 water scarcity decrees for 126 municipalities in the Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Metropolitan, O’Higgins and Maule Regions. In addition, the government has issued an agricultural emergency in 119 municipalities in those same regions as well as the Atacama Region.
The government is looking to address the problem in the medium- and long-term through a significant infrastructure investment plan. The initiatives will include169 rural potable water systems that will cost over $135 billion and will increase coverage from 53% to 100% by 2024. The Priority Reservoir Plan includes 26 projects at a total cost of US$6 billion that will provide more than 85% irrigation security for 285,000 hectares of land and will bring new irrigation to 120,000 hectares of land. There will also be investments in new water sources such as desalinization, exploitation of deep aquifers and the reuse of wastewater and recharging of aquifers. Work is also being done on Strategic Water Resource Plans, improved oversight and control of water extraction, updated regulations, and research and development projects.
The members of the National Water Committee are listed below:
1. Minister Alfredo Moreno
2. Minister Antonio Walker
3. Minister Carolina Schmidt
4. Minister Juan Carlos Jobet
5. Minister Andrés Couve
6. Minister Gonzalo Blumel
7. Undersecretary Lucas Palacios
8. Óscar Cristi, Director of the General Water Directorate (DGA)
9. Federico Errázuriz, Executive Secretary of the National Irrigation Commission (CNR)
10. Senator Luz Ebensperger, Tarapacá Region
11. Senator Rodrigo Galilea, Maule Region
12. Senator Isabel Allende, Valparaíso Region
13. Senator Guido Girardi, Metropolitan Region
14. Representative Ramón Barros, O'Higgins Region
15. Representative Luis Pardo, Valparaíso Region
16. Representative René Alinco, Aysén Region
17. Representative Pablo Kast, Valparaíso Region
18. Representative Matías Walker, Coquimbo Region
19. Representative José Pérez, Biobío Region
20. Gonzalo Muñoz, COP25 Champion
21. José Ramón Valente, Fundación Chile
22. Ricardo Ariztía, President of the National Agriculture Society (SNA)
23. Diego Hernández, President of the National Mining Society (SONAMI)
24. Jéssica López, President of the National Association of Sanitary Service Companies (Andess)
25. Orlando Contreras, National President of the United Rural and Ethnic Movement of Chile (MUCECH)
26. Fernando Peralta, President of the Canal Confederation