Chile Moves to Restrict Water After More Than a Decade of Drought

Chile Moves to Restrict Water After More Than a Decade of Drought
Dead carp fish on the dried lakebed of the Peñuelas Lake, a reservoir in Chile's Valparaiso Region in 2022. (Photo: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP, Getty Images)

Chile’s harsh drought has begun its 13th year, forcing country’s capitol to ration water.

The city of Santiago recently revealed a four-tier plan addressing different levels of water conservation that will apply to about 1.7 million people, the Guardian reports. The first level is a “green alert” that prioritises the use of groundwater for water conservation. The second and third are the “early prevention warning” and “yellow” stages, which focus on reducing water pressure. Those are followed by the “red alert” stage, which is when water is rationed via 24-hour rotating water cuts. The alert system is based on monitoring the water levels of the nearby Maipo and Mapocho rivers, which is were most of Santiago’s water supply comes from.

Chilean officials have said the system is necessary to ensure that everyone has some access to water. “We’re in an unprecedented situation in Santiago’s 491-year history where we have to prepare for there to not be enough water for everyone who lives here,” Santiago Governor Claudio Orrego said in a press conference, according to The Guardian.

As the climate crisis changes weather patterns around the world, more cities must learn how to deal with extreme weather and lack of water. About 60% of the United States is going to experience some form of drought this year. California elected officials have asked residents to voluntarily reduce their use of water, and future water rationing is a possibility.

The Sierra Nevada mountain range’s snowpack, which melts in the spring and feeds into the local water supply, is disturbingly low this year. Researchers recently found only 2.5 inches of snow near Lake Tahoe, when there should be several feet at this time of year. Recent photos of Lake Powell, a crucial water source for the West, show the reservoir nearly dried up.