Water security is a human right, but for more than 700 million people that right to safe drinking water is still not regulated. There are 2.5 billion people in the world who do not have access to sanitation and billions of people live in areas where there is an increasing scarcity of water. Economic growth, population growth, urbanization and climate change are increasingly leading to too little, too dirty, or too much water. The World Economic Forum sees the water crisis as the main threat to the global economy.
The Netherlands wants to contribute to solutions for this global water problem. The Netherlands does this by:
What will the Netherlands achieve with this commitment?
Chile faces a number of challenges arising from years of drought caused by climate change: outdated legislation based on water abundance; large parts of the country suffering from drought; fragmented water management; geographical move of agriculture towards the South, where there is still water; little or no recycling or collection and storage of rainwater; pollution of rivers and silting of deltas.
In recent years, the Netherlands has also been confronted with changing weather patterns, which for the first time in our country lead to drought in the spring and / or summer, and serious surpluses at other times of the year (the Netherlands has extensive experience with this).
Dutch water policy is based on the inherent interdependence of our country with water through rivers, the coast and an important part of the land that is under water. But that policy is constantly evolving based on new experiences, knowledge, and technology, partly prompted by the increasing drought.
The Netherlands and Chile can complement each other well in this field and exchange knowledge and experiences that yield mutual benefits.
The Netherlands and Chile are working together in the field of water with the aim of exchanging scientific and administrative knowledge, sharing (concrete) short, medium and long-term solutions that lead to tackling the challenges that both countries have in this area.
As a water country, the Netherlands has a lot of knowledge and has experienced a lot of drought in recent years. Chile, as a drought country, has a unique situation in several areas where the Netherlands can help and vice versa.
The Netherlands does this by offering innovative solutions based on active communication about our role as an expert in the field of water and by offering policy, administrative and scientific support to the Chilean and Dutch public, private and knowledge sectors.
The Netherlands and Chile recently agreed to focus primarily on solutions for water cooperation for:
Years of experience in the field of integrated water management, water purification, efficient water use in agriculture and water reuse in the Netherlands, offers Chile a number of opportunities to make use of Dutch knowledge and experience, especially in areas where Chile has major challenges. The Netherlands would like to work with Chile in the following ways to find the most suitable approach to the challenges for them:
The Netherlands and Chile recently signed a Letter of Intent (LoI), which will run until 2024, in which the aforementioned areas and ways of cooperation are identified. Based on this, projects are running (see below) and new requests for cooperation or advice will be identified and addressed.
DGA: Dirección General de Agua, Ministerio de Obras Públicas (www.dga.cl)
GORE: Gobierno Regional
CDRP: Corporación Regional de Desarrollo Productivo (www.crdp.cl)
DOP: Dirección de Obras Portuarias, Ministerio de Obras Públicas (www.dop.cl)
DOH: Dirección de Obras Hidráulicas, Ministerio de Obras Públicas (www.doh.gov.cl)
APR: Agua Potable Rural (www.doh.gov.cl/apr/acercadeapr/paginas/acercaapr.aspx)
With its extremely elongated shape, 4,000 kilometres from north to south, and geographic diversity, Chile has a multitude of water issues. The availability of water is one of the most urgent issues. The north of Chile in particular is extremely dry. In 2019, the Netherlands and Chile started the GIRAgua recharge pilot project aimed at water retention and underground storage in the Coquimbo region.
The GIRAgua recharge pilot project is looking at the catchment area of the Elqui River which flows from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. This catchment has hardly any water in the dry season, but does have water in the rainy season which then disappears straight into the sea. The project consists of aquifer recharge and underground storage practices to contribute to integrated water management of the Coquimbo region. The project is an initiative of a Dutch consortium led by Deltares and co-implemented with Chilean partners. Financially, GIRAgua is supported by the subsidy scheme of the Dutch Partners for Water programme and the Government of the Coquimbo region.
The Aconcagua project is part of the bilateral water cooperation between Chile and the Netherlands, with sustainable river basin and water resource management as central cooperation themes. Climate change, persistent drought in Chile, and the problems this entails for agriculture and river cosystems are the reason for this project. The Netherlands and Chile are closely linked, partly because of the fruit trade. 52% of the exported avocados from Chile currently go to the Netherlands and from there to Europe, as the Netherlands is specialized in the specific logistics process for avocados, like ripening, control and packaging. In 2020, 13% of the avocados in the Netherlands came from Chile, in 2019 this was 18%. Due to, among other things, the drought, production numbers in Chile are declining.
The European demand for sustainably produced agricultural products is increasing, as is the focus on preserving natural ecosystems. Avocado in this respect has the negative image of a large water footprint. In achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD’s) by 2030 in Chile, sustainable water management and a transformation of global agricultural systems are essential. Many innovations are currently being developed in the Netherlands for circular agriculture. Chile has taken important steps in making agriculture more sustainable, by improving irrigation systems and water productivity.
The impact of the drought on water availability is major, and how river basin management can be organized in such a way that (sustainable) agriculture has a future and does not negatively affect the ecosystem of the river is very relevant. One of the important catchment areas for fruit growing in Chile is the Aconcagua valley. The water availability in this catchment is under pressure due to large-scale fruit cultivation (49,000 hectares) related to climate change and persistent drought as outlined above. This also puts the future of fruit growing itself under pressure.
Coalition between the Netherlands and Chile
The Dutch Partners for Water program develops projects under the Chilean – Dutch water cooperation. Discussions with Chilean and Dutch private and public parties committed to sustainable fruit cultivation and improved water consumption in the Aconcagua valley prompted to set up a coalition of parties, that are willing to work literally and figuratively across their borders. The starting point of this coalition is the belief that transformation of water management and fruit cultivation in the Aconcagua valley can only come about if all parties involved have a common long-term goal to work together, and make an effort that goes beyond their direct responsibility. Coalition parties contribute with their knowledge and network, and (the (partial) financing of) projects.
Purpose and activities
The aim of the coalition is to contribute to the adaptation to drought and limited water availability in the Aconcagua valley, improving river basin management and making fruit cultivation more sustainable, with an eye for the broader ecosystem of the river.
Three action levels, sub-goals and projects are distinguished:
1. Farm level, to strengthen the exchange of expertise and innovation in the field of sustainable agriculture and water use:
2. The catchment area, to gather factual information about the state of the river basin and, based on this, stimulate a dialogue about concrete opportunities towards water resilience:
3. The international value chain, to increase the knowledge of about the importance of water in agriculture and the impact on the river basin, and involve them in improvements at the river basin and farm level:
The coalition’s first deployment runs until December 2021, after which it will determine how to proceed.
The master plan “borde fluvial Valdivia” is a complete re-structuring of the borders of the river Valdivia, the only navigable river in Chile. The plan has social, environmental, recreational, sportive and economic impact and affects all living around the river borders (and the city). It is a complete design and our input is requested to support on citizen participation (how to include the in habitants), environmental aspects (wetlands, quay design), biodiversity aspects (protection of local varieties of plants, trees), sustainability aspects (less concrete and more nature based solutions), economic development (use the river for transport), and recreational development (build an Olympic size row course).
Currently, this project is taking shape in the implementation phase. With Nijmegen’s project “room for the river”, where Nijmegen “embraced the river” is the example for Valdivia to also stop turning its back to the river and embrace it. Of course starting points and goals to achieve are different, but its processes regarding above mentioned elements are exemplary for the Valdivian case. Hence, the Dutch Water Sector can assist in this process and in a next stage can possibly help with the execution of some of the more tangible projects, providing consultancy and/or technical knowledge, support, services and/or products.
One of the main actions in the territory that is currently taken up and promoted by the Chilean Ministry of Sport and the Regional Government concerns setting up a nautical park for the practice of high-level competitive water sports. For this project, the rowing course from 2011-2012 in Rotterdam in the Netherlands serves as the main point of reference due to the similarity of its location and technological considerations. This is just one example that sheds light on the potential of collaborative opportunities between Chile and the Netherlands in the area of waterways.