Climate Change and Overuse: Water Resource Challenges during Economic Growth in Coquimbo, Chile

Roberto Pizarro, Pablo A. Garcia-Chevesich, John E. McCray, Jonathan O. Sharp, Rodrigo Valdés-Pineda, Claudia Sangüesa, Dayana Jaque-Becerra, Pablo Álvarez, Sebastián Norambuena, Alfredo Ibáñez, Carlos Vallejos, Romina Mendoza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The arid Coquimbo region of Chile has experienced a significant economic growth in recent decades, fueled in large part by water-intensive activities such as mining and agriculture. Under this context, a monthly and annual trend analysis of precipitation, streamflow, and piezometric levels was carried out. Thus, 43 pluviometric stations, 11 fluviometric stations, and 11 wells were selected. These stations were evaluated for their temporal trends using the Mann–Kendall test. Results revealed a significant decrease in river flows, with negative and significant trends concentrated in the mean and maximum flows, both at annual and monthly levels. Likewise, positive trends were found in the depth to water table on wells, with significant trends in 81.8% of the monthly cases, and in 72.7% of the annual cases. While also decreasing over the same period, rainfall trends exhibit high variability and lacked significance. Although the amounts of precipitation have decreased, this does not seem to be the main factor responsible for the scarcity of water in the region, but rather an excessive consumption of this resource. This is endorsed by the increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which is explained by activities that consume water (mining and agriculture). Similarly, an increase in the granting of underground water rights was verified, which speaks of the high demands for the resource. However, future modeling is advised to better understand the regional hydrology of the area and quantify the anthropic effects on water resources more precisely.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3440
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Anthropogenic effects
  • Chile
  • Land use planning
  • Sustainable water resources management
  • Water management

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