Drought and climate change impacts on regional basin hydrology and agriculture in Central Chile

Authors: Antonio Bellisario*, MSU Denver, Jason R Janke, MSU Denver, Sam Ng, MSU Denver
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, South America, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Water scarcity, climate change, drought, basin agro-ecosystems, Chile, Western South America
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, located in the drought belt of Western South America (32-35°S), is a Mediterranean region prone to water shortages and scarcity. The source of streamflow originates from melting snow and glaciers in the catchments of the high Andes. Not only does this region possess the majority of the country’s population, but it also holds a large percentage of its key economic activities, including agriculture and industry. Each is highly dependent on water supplied by rivers originating in the high Andes cordillera; however, the region is experiencing water stress due to a simultaneous rising demand and a decreasing water availability due to drought. The effects of decreasing precipitation, reduced streamflow, agricultural expansion, and rising water demands are studied to assess the impacts of the mega drought (2010-2015) on basin hydrology and water availability for agriculture in Central Chile. A decrease in precipitation, coupled with a rise in the snowline of the river basin, reduced discharge and impacted water availability. This resulted in water restrictions and a decrease in agricultural productivity. The water shortage cannot be offset by groundwater supplies alone; the construction of additional dams and reservoirs is not a sustainable solution since most viable sites have been identified and developed. In the last 15 years, the region’s river basins have experienced an average reduction of streamflow of 40%, while the irrigated land has increased by 15%. A deficient irrigation infrastructure and inefficient management of water resources will only worsen the situation.

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