Chilean scientists warn environmental costs of water roads

image: Satellite images illustrating the influence of river discharge on coastal oceans and the projected precipitation scenarios in Chile

Cristian A. Vargas, Director Center for the study of multiple-drivers on marine socio-ecological systems (MUSELS)

The study "The environmental costs of water transfers", published in Nature Sustaintability, studies the proposals for water roads to face the water crisis that affects Chile. Researchers from Universidad de Concepcion, Universidad de Chile, Universidad del Desarrollo, and Universidad del Biobío participated, with an interdisciplinary perspective.

The working group included academics from areas such as oceanography, climatology, ecotoxicology, economics, and limnology, to seek the possible impacts that the implementation of water transfer or waterway projects could have. Considering for this the problems that Chile has faced in the last 30 years in the administration of water resources.

Added to this scenario, there is the prolonged dry period known as mega-drought, which since 2010 has exacerbated the water deficit and anticipated the scenario imposed by climate change in much of the national territory, where rains will be increasingly scarce.

For Cristian A. Vargas, director of the MUSELS Center, who led this analysis, "Chile is entering a phase where it must reconcile the growing demand for water supply by productive sectors such as agriculture, mining and electricity generation, with the provision for human consumption and the health of ecosystems ".

Under ever-intensifying water scarcity across much of the presently semi-arid regions of the world, water transfers
may become inevitable to ease regional water deficits. However, to assure water sustainability, the design and enforcement of future water-use regulations must consider
their long-term implications, recognizing the connections between inland and marine ecosystems, and understanding their socio-ecological consequences under future climate change. Chile, a country where large-scale hydraulic roads are presently under consideration, may raise the bar with the development of stringent regulations and standards.

Universidad de Concepción