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Despite possessing one-third of the Latin American glaciers, the water quality and quantity have been dwindling in Chile as it enters its record-breaking 13th year of drought.
As Chile enters its 13th year of drought, the capital city of Santiago has announced a plan to ration the water supply. It features a four-tier alert system that moves from green to red -- begins with public service announcements and moves on to restricting water pressure and ends with rotating water cuts of up to 24 hours. If applied, about 1.7 million customers will face water rationing.
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What’s the plan?
Despite possessing one-third of the Latin American glaciers, the water quality and quantity have been dwindling in Chile as it enters its record-breaking 13th year of drought. Santiago is one of the worst affected areas in the country. It announced an unprecedented plan to ration water for a city of nearly 6 million people.
The plan has four stages, the first is the "Green Alert," which emphasizes on water conservation and prioritizes the use of groundwater. Second is the "Preventive Early Warning" and "Yellow" stage, which imposes a reduction in water pressure. The final stage is the “Red Alert” when actual water rationing is applied to one sector of the city at a time, for a maximum of 24 hours.
The primary water sources for the city are the Mapcho River and Maipo River. The program covers 142,000 households that are supplied by the Mapocho River and another 1,545,000 that are supplied by the Maipo River. The water cuts can range from every four, six, or 12 days across different areas of Santiago depending on the water levels of the two rivers.
The decision to ration water will depend on the levels of winter rainfall, government officials said.
Certain districts in the city would be exempted from rationing due to the high concentration of areas fed by other water sources.
Why is Chile facing a drought?
According to government estimates, water availability in the country has dropped 10 percent to 37 percent over the past three decades. It could further drop by 50 percent in the northern and central parts of the country by 2060, making the water rationing plan imperative.
The current 13-year drought is the worst in its modern history. Scientists are attributing around 25 percent of the drought’s severity to climate change.
"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,” said Claudio Orrego, the governor of the Santiago metropolitan region, in a press conference, Reuters reported.
However, other studies show that human activity in Chile is also a major contributor to the water crisis. The privatization of water for economic purposes resulted in the diversion of rivers and tributaries leading to hoarding of water. Agricultural, mining, and extractive industries hoarded and exploited water resources in the country adding to the damage done by climate change.
However, the currently elected 155 delegates are redrafting Chile's dictatorship-era constitution and planning for a Green Peace campaign. This is a result of the nationwide protests against deep social inequality in 2019.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)