Hydroclimatic impacts of climate variability in central Chile

Authors: Alexander Parks*, Metropolitan State College of Denver, Cassy Cadwallader*, MSU Denver, Troy Griffin*,
Topics: Natural Resources, Land Use and Land Cover Change, South America
Keywords: water scarcity, Central Chile, Multi-year drought, snow-ice-glacier fed watershed
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Central Chile (32°-35° S) holds the majority of the country’s population and a large percentage of its economic activity; both are highly dependent on water supplied by rivers originating in the Andes Cordillera. This study assesses water deficit driven by drought and changes in land use in the Maipo river basin. The effects of decreasing precipitation and the associated reduction in streamflow, rising water demand, agricultural expansion, land use and irrigation patterns are studied to assess the regional hydroclimatic impacts. A critical assessment of government water planning and ongoing policies for the region’s water management is offered alongside a set of policies to increase water resilience and water management in the basin. Due to its Mediterranean climate (marked by low precipitation during the summers) the region’s agriculture depends almost exclusively on surface water for irrigation. From 2010 to 2015, central Chile experienced a prolonged multi-year drought with abnormally low rainfall. The rise of the snowline caused less snow accumulation in the upper catchments. The amount of precipitation in the upper catchments is the most important factor controlling the variability of streamflow for snow-ice-fed watersheds in the central Andes. This has caused extreme water scarcity in the region, where surface water availability is crucial for residents and economic activities. A reduction of the snowpack and an earlier spring melt is causing reduced water availability. Reduced streamflow will impose a substantive challenge to meet water needs. New policies need to be implemented to improve the region’s water resilience.

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