The water crisis in Chile: The slow death of water

In a planet suffering increasing water scarcity, south-central Chile is passing through one of the worst droughts of the last thousand years. Despite this, the country has proved unable to deal with the challenges brought by climate change. With weak institutions, and legislation that does not prioritise human consumption, much of the shortage can be attributed to bad management. The situation is worrying: today we are among the 18 countries with the greatest hydric stress in the world.

If all the fresh water on earth were reduced to an imaginary planet, it would form a globe just 273 kilometres in diameter. It is indubitably a scarce resource: only 1% of all the earth's water is fit for human consumption.

The lack of water is increasingly serious. It is due largely to climate change, with severe droughts on the increase in many parts of the world as precipitations diminish, and so consequently do water volumes in rivers and lakes. It has also had an impact on glaciers, which are losing volume or receding.

As the world's population continues to grow, the demand for water will grow also. It is estimated that in 2050 the world will need twice the quantity of water consumed in 2000 [1].

The severity of the problem varies around the planet, however nearly half the world's population — 3.6 billion people — live in areas that already suffer water shortages or may do so in future. According to the United Nations, this figure will continue to grow [2]. The outlook is alarming: it is calculated that by 2040 most of the world will not have enough water.

Hydric Stress to 2040