Chile drought not over despite rainy H1


Chile drought not over despite rainy H1

Heavy rains during the first half of the year were not enough to end Chile’s 15-year drought, with water scarcity in Coquimbo region remaining critical.

“This has been a good year, but it doesn’t mean the drought is over. We have to wait until September so we can make a more precise forecast and have a more certain outlook of the thawing” of snow in the mountains, public works minister Jessica López said at a press conference. 

Nearly all monitoring stations reported higher precipitation in January-June than in the same period of last year, with some even exceeding pre-drought averages, according to the meteorological office.

Water levels in reservoirs have also risen. The El Yeso reservoir in Santiago contained 194Mm3 (million cubic meters) as of end-June, compared with 177Mm3 a year ago, surpassing the 178Mm3 average between 1991 and 2010.

But water scarcity decrees remain in place in 49 municipalities of the nation.

While more rain fell in Coquimbo this year than in 1H23, water levels at seven of its eight main reservoirs were the same or lower, and well below the 1991-2010 averages. 

Less precipitation is expected as the La Niña phenomenon arrives. 

A tender for a US$300mn desalination plant in Coquimbo region is planned for this year, but López said the ministry was also planning an emergency plant to serve areas near the Limarí river valley, which is in a critical situation.

FLOOD REPAIRS

López highlighted that infrastructure damage this year is less extensive than last year, although repairs related to the 2023 floods are still ongoing.

“The works done since then, and the rain patterns that have been very different [from last year], allowed us to face this episode with less damage. There were some incidents, but none of them were as severe as last year, to the point that we aren’t considering a new reconstruction plan but specific projects instead,” she said in response to a question from BNamericas.

Under the 2023 reconstruction plan, the ministry will invest 500 billion pesos (US$527 million) in the next two or three years in flood control measures, road and bridge repairs and rehabilitating rural water systems, López said.



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