Chile is experiencing its worst drought in six decades and it is the country with the greatest water crisis in the entire Western Hemisphere. According to Greenpeace, 76% of Chile's territory is affected by the lack of water. A situation that, according to the conclusions of a study carried out by the University of Chile, will continue to affect the country and become worse in the coming decades.
The study, which was commissioned by the General Water Authority, modeled the hydroclimatic variations between the periods of 1985-2015 and 1955-1985 to determine the projections for the next decades, concluding that the north-central area of the country will suffer a strong reduction of its water reserves between 2030 and 2060, which will lead to the loss of more than 50% of its water.
"This tendency to dryness is dramatic throughout the study area, and there may be decreases in rainfall of over 1,000 millimeters per year in some areas," stated the research, which took into account 174 water basins from all over the country.
According to the study, temperatures in the northern part of the country will increase by 1.5 ° C between 2030 and 2060. This area - which goes from the Arica Region that borders Peru to Maule- will be the most affected by the lack of rainfall. According to experts, rainfall in this area is projected to fall by 29% when compared to the annual average.
According to Ximena Vargas, an engineer from the University of Chile who led this study, other factors, such as changes in land use, also influence the effect that the decrease in rainfall has on the flow of the basins.
In the southern zone, water resources are expected to decrease by 10% to 37%, with a reduction in average annual flows that could reach up to 25%, and a maximum increase in temperatures that ranges from 1 to 2.5° C.
According to the study, the southernmost part of the country and Rapa Nui Island –located in the Pacific 3,000 kilometers from the Chilean coast– will register a 40% decrease in rainfall and warming of close to 0.4° C.
Despite this lack of water, Chile is one of the countries with the highest level of water privatization in the world. According to estimates, currently, 80% of the country's water resources are in private hands, mainly of large agricultural, mining, and energy companies.