Coquimbo Authorities Say Desalination Is the “Only Solution” to Deal With Drought

CHILE, COQUIMBO

Authorities in Chile’s Coquimbo region are turning to seawater desalination to counter the effects of drought in the region.  

At a meeting last week of regional authorities, Chile’s Undersecretary of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla Mackenney warned of more “complex situations” arising from lack of rainfall in the region.

The ongoing drought has affected mining, agriculture and energy production, other meeting participants noted.

“In the case of hydroelectricity, the drought conditions have left the central [regions] of Paloma and Puclaro out of operation. The only project that supplies (energy) to the system is Los Molles,” Luis Eduardo Cantellano, a representative of the energy company for Atacama and Coquimbo, told reporters.

Ubilla said the government would provide additional funds for actions to fight drought, including digging deeper wells.

Claudio Rentería, mayor of the city of Ovalle, told meeting attendees that the only solution was to turn to the waters of the Pacific Ocean to provide desalinated water to the areas most in need of water.

“The ideal solution would be to have a rainy winter,” he said, but current meteorological forecasts preclude this.

The Mining Ministry early this year announced a total of $3.9 billion USD for new desalination projects, including two desalination plants for the Luksic Group’s mining projects and one for BHP Billiton’s Minera Escondida project. 

Local media reported on May 3 that Minera Escondida had initiated the environmental approval processes for a $290 million USD desalinated water pipeline in the northern coastal city of Antofagasta. 

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