Imperial RIVER BASIN (chile)

Water Users/ Stakeholders


The water availability in the Araucanía region is 49 273 m3/in/year, with a favourable relation of availability to demand of water resources (Banco Mundial, 2011). However, in recent years a strong drought has been affecting the region (CR2, 2015), with important consequences on water supply, agriculture and livestock.

Water use conflicts

1) Overcoming poverty: More irrigation under severe droughts and forestry monocultures

In May 2016, the regional government of the Araucanía mentioned that they are convinced that the best way to overcome poverty in the region is by fostering agricultural sector. Therefore, the regional government has started and ambitious plan to increase the irrigated area by 100 000 ha by 2022, which would require an increase in the water consumption for irrigation. However, ongoing studies show that since 2010 this region has been affected by the most severe drought ever recorded (CR2, 2015), with a growing number of rural families being supplied with drinking water by cistern trucks. On the other hand, many families, rural communities and Mapuche people have found a way to diversify their income by replacing native forest by exotic plantations (mostly Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus), with an open debate about the impact of the exotic forest plantations on surface and groundwater levels  (e.g. Huber and Trecaman, 2000, 2004; Scott and Prinsloo, 2008; Huber et al., 2008; Little et al., 2009; Huber et al., 2010). In late 2015, a Regional Water Resources Commission has been created to analyse the technical and economical feasibility of several new infrastructures (e.g., reservoirs, mini reservoirs, rainfall collectors, irrigation channels, wells for drinking water). This commission is integrated by public agencies, associations of water users and universities.

2) Hydropower production in harmony with tourism, Mapuche communities and information asymmetry

Traditionally, energy sector in Chile has relied on thermal and hydropower generation. However, recent opposition to hydropower projects has led to put more emphasis on renewable energies. In particular, the high value of the Araucanía landscape for tourism sector and the presence of Mapuche communities have recently stopped some important hydroelectrical projects. Chile was one of the first nations in Latin America to set long-range targets for clean generating capacity. Today, the mandate stands at 20% of renewable energy generation by 2025, and 70% by 2050. To overcome the social opposition to these projects, there is a strong need for generating public information in areas where it is more likely to build hydropower projects. Such information should be easily available for all actors involved in hydropower development, but access to information about the territory usually present important asymmetries. Hydropower companies develop studies aimed at identifying and mitigating environmental impacts through consulting, whose information only reach the community when it enters to the Environmental Impact Assessment system (SEA). While the community can effectively have access to those studies, reports are usually of lengthy extension, making it difficult to review. Finally, affected communities usually distrust the information contained in those studies.



References and further reading:

Banco Mundial (2011) Chile: Diagnóstico de la gestión de los recursos hídricos. Banco Mundial, Departamento de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible, Región para América Latina y el Caribe. Available on 20hidricos%20en%20Chile_Banco%20Mundial.pdf. [Accessed on Jun 10th 2016].

CADE-IDEPE (2004) Diagnóstico y Clasificación de los Cursos y Cuerpos de Agua Según Objetivos de Calidad. Cuenca del Río Imperial. Technical Report. Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Dirección General de Aguas. Elaborado por: Cade-Idepe Consultores en Ingeniería. Available on

CONIC-BF (2010) Mejoramiento y ampliación red de aguas subterráneas regiones VII a X. Informe Final. Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Dirección General de Aguas, División de Estudios y Planificación. Elaborado por: CONIC-BF Ingenieros Civiles Consultores.

CR2 (2015) Informe a la Nación: La Megasequía. Centro de Ciencia del Clima y la Resiliencia (CR2), Universidad de Chile. Available on [Accessed on Jun 10th, 2016].

DMC (2015) Descripción Climatológica Región de la Araucanía. Dirección Meteorológica de Chile (DMC). Available on http://www.meteochile. cl/climas/climas_novena_region.html. [Accessed on Dec 10th 2015].

Huber, A., Iroumé, A., Bathurst, J. (2008) Effect of Pinus radiata plantations on water balance in Chile. Hydrological Processes 22, 142–148. doi:10. 1002/hyp.6582.

Huber, A., Iroumé, A., Mohr, C., Frêne, C. (2010) Efecto de plantaciones de Pinus radiata y Eucalyptus globulus sobre el recurso agua en la Cordillera de la Costa de la región del Bíobío, Chile. Bosque (Valdivia) 31, 219–230. doi:10.4067/S0717-92002010000300006.

Huber J, A., Trecaman V, R. (2000) Efecto de una plantacin de Pinus radiata en la distribucin espacial del contenido de agua del suelo. Bosque (Valdivia) 21, 37–44.

Huber J, A., Trecaman V, R. (2004) Eficiencia del uso del agua en plantaciones de Pinus radiata en Chile. Bosque (Valdivia) 25, 33–43. doi:10.4067/S0717-92002004000300004.

INE (2007) Censo Agropecuario 2007. Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas (INE). Available on estadistico/censos_agropecuarios/censo_agropecuario_07.php. [Accessed on Jun 10th 2016].

INE (2015) Compendio Estadístico-Región de la Araucanía 2015.Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE). Dirección Regional de la Araucanía. Temuco, Chile. Available on 20Regional%202015%20-%20La%20Araucan%C3%ADa.pdf. [Accessed on Jun 10th 2016].

INFOR (2014) Antecedentes Generales y Recurso Forestal Región de la Araucanía 2014. Instituto Forestal (INFOR). Available on [Accessed on Jun10th 2016].

INFOR (2015) El sector forestal chileno 2015. Instituto Forestal (INFOR). Available on sectorforestal.php#/44. [Accessed on Jun 10th 2016].

Little, C., Lara, A., McPhee, J., Urrutia, R. (2009) Revealing the impact of forest exotic plantations on water yield in large scale watersheds in South-Central Chile. Journal of Hydrology 374, 162–170. doi:10.1016/ j.jhydrol.2009.06.011.

MOP (2012) Plan Regional de Infraestructura y Gestión del Recurso Hídrico al 2021. Resumen Ejecutivo. Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Región de la Araucanía. Available on download/PRIGRH_Region_Araucania.pdf. [Accessed on Jun 10th 2016].

Quiroga, T.G. (1987) Investigación tecnológica de Riego. Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (Chile). Estación experimental Carillanca. Programa Riego y Drenaje. Temuco. Informe Final. p 12.

Scott, D.F., Prinsloo, F.W. (2008) Longer-term effects of pine and eucalypt plantations on streamflow. Water Resources Research, 44, W00A08. doi:10.1029/2007WR006781.

Sobarzo, C.T. (2014) Adaptación al cambio climático de la gestión hídrica. Master’s thesis. Magster en Gestión y Polticas Públicas. Universidad de Chile. Estudios de Caso Nro 129.

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