Drying out

Drying out NASA Earth Observatory
22 Aug
2015
Chile’s government is taking urgent action to prevent a water crisis after continuing low rainfall leaves no end in sight for the drought which has afflicted the country

The past decade has seen long-running drought conditions in Chile, with rainfall as much as 50 per cent below historical rates. Despite brief storms in early July – the first in more than two years to bring more than one inch of rain to the region – the drought shows no sign of relenting.

This has had severe impacts on agricultural production and has become a key cause of forest fires, as well as damaging the domestic copper industry which provides 19 per cent of government revenue. The Atacama desert in northern Chile, already recognised as one of the driest in the world, is now threatening to spread south, towards the seven million inhabitants of the capital, Santiago.

In June, Aarón Cavieres, Executive Director of CONAF, the National Forestry Corporation, announced to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) a plan to invest $250million (£160million) to replant 100,000 hectares of degraded land with native forest.

‘Some $1.5billion has been provided in recent years to recover lands, in areas like forestry, prairies, and agricultural lands,’ Cavieres said. ‘We are proposing goals that we will meet because we are moving in lines of work that reinforce the path to a sustainable forest and environmental sector.’

This follows an announcement from President Michelle Bachelet earlier this year that the government would be looking into building desalinisation plants, as well as investing $170million (£108million) to access underground water sources, build and upgrade canals and improve irrigation systems. ‘There is no choice but to assume that the lack of water resources is a reality that is here to stay,’ she declared.

In the short-term, residents of Santiago and central Chile will likely welcome the prospect of a strong El Niño event this year, due to the heavy rains which tend to arrive during such episodes.

‘This year’s El Niño could rival that of 1997–98, which was one of the strongest on record,’ reports AccuWeather Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani. ‘While El Niño is likely to have a positive impact on the drought, it is not likely to completely stop it moving forward during the next six to nine months.’

This article was published in the September 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Cities

The next stage in autonomous vehicles is hoping to transform…

Mapping

Geographical’s resident data cartographer presents a true picture of the…

Water

What impact could an unprecedented incident of ‘river piracy’ have…

Mountains

Norway is to undercut a mountainous peninsula to create the…

Mapping

Benjmain Hennig explores global mortality with maps

Water

Last winter’s cold conditions contributed a further influx of road…

Water

As one of America’s biggest cities, supplying clean drinking water…

Cities

Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Bridge has been left unfinished for…

Mapping

An interactive map highlights the shocking number of ongoing conflicts…

Mapping

Repurposed NASA maps show the racial diversity (and segregation) of…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps Europe's public train networks

Mapping

A new map of global landslide susceptibility reveals vast geographical…

Deserts

For decades, scientists have been divided over how these eerily…

Forests

The first count of global tree species reveals how many…

Cities

The new ‘world’s longest flight’ now spans a distance of more…

Mountains

For the Swiss, the iconic yellow postbuses are much more…

Water

After years of inaction, could the clean-up of the Venice lagoon…

Water

Following the recent success of New Zealand’s Whanganui river, India’s…

Forests

The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)…

Mapping

Where are Europe's earthquakes located? Benjamin Hennig maps the answer