Chile's approach to water

As meltwater from the Andes declines, Chilean winemakers must grapple with water shortages. Marcela Burgos reports.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile/Photo by Olga Stalska on Unsplash
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile/Photo by Olga Stalska on Unsplash

The Andes are the dominant feature of Chile’s geography, an enormous natural barrier that separates the country from Argentina. The snow melt from Latin America’s highest mountain range is also of vital importance to the Chilean wine industry, much of which uses irrigation water from the rivers that flow east to west from the Andes towards the Pacific Ocean. 

Producers who have no access to this Andean bounty depend on rain to irrigate their vineyards. And rain is an increasingly scarce commodity.

Precipitation has generally decreased in areas of high pressure, where the climate is influenced by anticyclones; this is certainly the case for the central zone in Chile, according to Bioclimatology Professor Fernando Santibáñez Quezada from the Universidad de Chile. Combine this shortage with the additional demands of an ever-larger area under vine and other crops, and a growing population, and the problem is even more acute. 
 

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