Influence of Land Use Changes on the Longaví Catchment Hydrology in South-Center Chile

Héctor Moya, Ingrid Althoff, Carlos Huenchuleo, Paolo Reggiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During recent decades, the South-Central part of Chile has shown strong vulnerability due to the effects of land use change (LUC). The interaction of these changes with local hydrology has not been adequately investigated and is poorly understood, especially in mountainous areas under irrigated agriculture. We applied the SWAT + agrohydrological model to study the effects of LUC on hydrological fluxes in the Longaví catchment, Maule region, South-Central Chile. Land use maps (LUMs) from 1997, 2009, and 2016 were used in conjunction with a 41-year (1979–2019) hydro-meteorological series of daily observations as forcing data. The dominant changes in land use during the study period relate to agriculture, shrublands, forestry of exotic species, and urban sprawl. First, the LUM of 1997 was used for model setup, sensitivity analysis, calibration, and validation. Second, the impact of LUC documented through LUMs 2009 and 2016 was analyzed. Our analysis clearly reveals that the overall water balance and internal moisture redistribution in the Longaví catchment have been considerably affected by decreases in precipitation, changes in land use and water use practices. Unless a comprehensive regulatory system is introduced that addresses current climatic conditions and territorial use, it is likely that the decrease in water resources will persist and worsen through climate changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • agricultural water demand
  • hydrological modeling
  • water scarcity


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