Running out of groundwater in semi-arid regions of northern Chile

Published On: October 27, 2017

Conflicts in water demands treat the aquifers ecosystems

Chile is one of the privileged countries in terms of availability of groundwater resources counting with one of the major reserves of these resources in South America. However, water is irregularly distributed on the territory due to its geographic and climatic diversity.

In addition, there are several conflicts related to groundwater demand in northern Chile as a result of intense mining activity and the exponential growth of agriculture, which contrasts with the natural environment of a semi-desert area.

To the increase of water demands in northern Chile, we must add the problematic that in this region, increasingly arid, the groundwater is almost exclusively obtained from alluvial aquifers which are confined y semi-confined whit shallow water table (bellow 50 m) and in close contacts with the rivers. This makes the aquifers to be mainly recharged by snowmelt from the Andean Mountains and secondarily by surface runoff and precipitation.

Recently has been considered the exploration of using seawater and sewage water for the large consuming sectors such are industry and mining.   

The Groundwater Ecology Group of IMDEA Water is currently conducting an exploratory investigation project on aquifers in Coquimbo region aiming to evaluate the groundwater quality and the impact of agriculture on groundwater fauna and of ecosystem services they provide.

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