Drought-Stressed Chile Is Reining In Its Privatized Water Model
(Bloomberg) -- Chilean senators approved a decade-old bill to reform the country’s water code, including setting horizons on entitlements and enshrining access as a human right.
In a unanimous vote late Tuesday, lawmakers pushed through a package of changes that include capping currently unlimited water rights at a maximum of 30 years and empowering regulators to suspend rights that aren’t being used or if supplies are at risk. Agriculture accounts for most water consumption in Chile, which is a major exporter of fruit and wine as well as copper and lithium.
Born in the 1980s Pinochet dictatorship, Chile’s water system relies heavily on private enterprise and market forces to allocate rights and deliver services. Water is expected to be one of the topics of discussion among delegates chosen to draft a new constitution as Chile looks to address lingering inequalities amid a decade-long drought exacerbated by climate change.
The package of changes, which still requires votes on individual articles, establishes water as a national good for public use and sets greater protections for supplies in indigenous communities. Private sector holders of water entitlements will be able to obtain extensions if they’re deemed to be making good use of rights.
“This bill reinforces the priority of human consumption and adds priority to safeguard ecosystems,” Public Works Minister Alfredo Moreno said. “It allows us to advance in the task of facing climate change.”
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