The Governor of the Santiago metropolitan region Claudio Orrego has announced an unprecedented water rationing plan to avoid catastrophe, as Chile is living through a more-than-a-decade-long drought and the country’s capital is facing the possibility of being cut off from water resources.
“A city can’t live without water. And we’re in an unprecedented situation in Santiago’s 491-year history, where we have to prepare for there to be not enough water for everyone who lives here,” the governor stated at a press conference on Monday. “This is the first time in history that Santiago has a water rationing plan due to the severity of climate change. It’s important for citizens to understand that climate change is here to stay. It’s not just global, it’s local,” he added.
The governor’s plan features a multi-tier alert system. A green alert will require the prioritization of groundwater use. A yellow protocol implies the reduction of water outflow pressure and, under the red-alert scenario, water access will be restricted to some 1.7 million metropolitan residents. Rotating water cuts can last up to 24 hours.
The alert system is based on measuring the capacity of the Maipo and Mapocho rivers, which have nurtured the Chilean capital with water supplies. In the last decade, Maipo and Mapocho have seen diminishing water levels due to droughts that have plagued the trans-Andean country.
Over three-quarters of Chile have been affected by the decade-long drought. As a result, the South American nation is experiencing the worst water crisis in the entire western hemisphere. Experts blame the lack of water on the scarcity of rainfall, but also on the water ownership regime, established in 1981. Former military ruler and president Augusto Pinochet’s Water Code gave nearly 80 % of the country’s water resources to private agricultural, energy, and mining companies.