Water and Drought Proactive Management in Chile

The Chile California Council (CCC), under its Chile California Conservation Exchange (CCCx) program, recently coordinated the visit to Chile of four academic experts on drought and water management issues from prestigious California universities. The visit is organized under the ANID’s project (abbreviation for National Institute of Research and Development, in Spanish) “Integration of monitoring and design of public policies for the proactive management of drought”, led by Jorge Gironás, Director of the Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering of the Chilean Catholic University (PUC). The visit was attended by the Minister of the Environment, members of the Maipo River Surveillance Board, and national academics, making it possible to show California’s experience in water management and planning, as well as other related studies.

The delegation of academics participated in a breakfast with the Minister of the Environment Maisa Rojas and her adviser Pilar Barría, as well as Pedro Bouchon, Vice Chancellor of the Pontificia Universidad Católica.

The tour lasted between December 5 and 9, to publicize the importance of having a proactive planning system for the use of water in a drought context, in addition to various academic studies on the subject. The delegation of academics was made up of Jay Lund, Alvar Escivá-Bou, Sarah Fletcher and Keani Willebrand, which also included other prominent national academics and authorities. Besides enabling knowledge transfer and experience sharing on water management, the visit enabled coordination for Keani to carry out his title project in the Maipo Basin, aiming to implement a monitoring and early warning system for better management of water resources in the basin. In the following article, we tell you more about this visit and the impact it could have on Chile’s drinking water supply.

Delegation members

The delegation was made up of 4 academics from prestigious California universities.

Jay Lund, at the far right, is a professor of Environmental Civil Engineering at UC Davis. His research is related to the application of economic and management systems to infrastructure and public works problems, also carries out qualitative studies about water politics, planning, and management. He has worked on waste management, dredging and coastal zone management, urban planning, and transportation systems.

Alvar Escriva-Bou, second from the left, is a researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California and his studies explore integrated management systems of water, energy, and environmental resources. He has studied alternatives and consequences of a transition to groundwater sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley, and has analyzed California’s water accounting system, as well as other studies regarding urban drought resilience and climate policies.

Sarah Fletcher, fourth from the right, is a Professor of Environmental Civil Engineering at Stanford and a member of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Her research is related to water resources and adaptation to climate change from a socio-technical systems perspective, integrating methods from hydrology, policy analysis, and data science, to inform decision-making around critical environmental challenges.

Finally, Keani Willebrand, at the far left, is a Ph.D. student of Sarah in Environmental Engineering at Stanford. Her interests are planning and applying technology-assisted solutions to meet sustainable development goals, as well as adapting civil infrastructure and water management policies to improve resilience. She is currently researching air pollution modeling, aquifer rehabilitation, wetland roofs (green infrastructure) for water management, and decentralized water management.

Visit details

The visit began on Monday, December 9, with an academic workshop at the Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering on Campus San Joaquín. This included a round of presentations to show and discuss the research topics of each, including national academics from the Campus. The session began with a description of the ANID project: “Integration of monitoring and the design of public policies for the proactive management of drought” and each of its 5 working packages; (1) characterization of droughts; (2) Drought monitoring platform; (3) Design of public policies for drought management; (4) Sectoral application of the human right to water; and (5) Sectoral application for productive uses at a regional and national scale. Then, it continued with the presentations of each of the invited academics, including national professors and researchers like Jorge Gironás, Sebastián Vicuña, Oscar Melo, Paulo Pastel, Alonso Pérez, Daniela Rivera, Cristián Jordán, and Marialina Núñez. The meeting lasted all day, with a final dinner at Restaurant Baco, with the presence of Pilar Barria, an adviser on water issues for the Ministry of the Environment.

Internal presentation session for academics at San Joaquín Campus.

The next day, the tour continued with a visit to the Maipo River Surveillance Board – First Section and some water intakes from the freshwater management and supply infrastructure for Santiago, where the waters of the Maipo River are separated towards its different final destinies. The meeting was attended by the technical and operations staff of the Surveillance Board and Dagoberto Betancourt, General Manager of the Pirque Canalists Association, and allowed to show how the water is distributed to Santiago in practice, and present alternatives for planning and management based on the California experience. This meeting opened the doors to a possible research work by Keani Willebrand, to evaluate a planning system and early water resources management in the Maipo Basin, where a positive reaction was obtained from the various present stakeholders.

Visit to the Maipo River Surveillance Board – First Section.

Visit to the San Carlos intake.

The visit culminated on Wednesday, December 11, with breakfast at PUC’s Casa Central Campus, to present California’s experience in drought management and explore how to capitalize it in Chile through public policies, with the participation of the Minister of the Environment Maisa Rojas and her advisor Pilar Barría, the Vice Chancellor of the PUC Pedro Bouchon, and the Director of Research of the same university, Maria Elena Boisier, as well as other national academics. This was followed by a seminar and discussion to present the ANID project and California experience to the public. During the seminar, Jorge Gironás presented the ANID project to generate progress towards the proactive management of drought in Chile; Pilar Barría presented the Basin Council pilot project being developed by the government, seeking to improve water resources management in Chile; and Jay Lund shared California’s experience in adapting strategies implemented to past water droughts. Finally, a public discussion panel was implemented, with the participation of Alvar Escriva-Bou, Sarah Fletcher, Pilar Barria, and Franco Guillón on behalf of the Chile California Council, where open questions from the public were resolved.

Minister of the Environment Maisa Rojas during the breakfast with the delegation, together with Sarah Fletcher, Sebastián Vicuña and Alvar Escriva-Bou.

Jay Lund presenting at the seminar and discussion panel at Campus Casa Central.

We invite you to stay informed about the development of this initiative through our periodic newsletter and posts in social media, and to share this story to publicize this important milestone.