Along the western edge of the Andes, from the semiarid and mediterranean areas of Central Chile to the hyperarid Atacama Desert to the North, climate changes together with a significant increase of water demand has led to strong pressures on the water resources. In Chile, since the late 1980s, the growth of exports (minerals, agricultural products) increased the water demand. As a consequence, severe withdrawals have been registered in surface-water (river, lake, dams) and alluvial aquifers. These hydrological reservoirs being highly sensitive to precipitation changes and water extractions, negative water balances are common along the northern half of Chile even if there are restrictions for new private water rights. This results in a decline of the water levels of rivers, dams or shallow alluvial aquifers sometimes submitted to severe depletion.
Today, water scarcity is impacting all aspects of the Chilean society (landscape, water supply, irrigation, industry, etc.) and water-resources issues become more and more a matter of concern.
Surely, the general poorly knowledge of aquifers functioning (geometry, boundary conditions, recharge processes, water ages), leading to unsuitable local management plans to cope with actual water challenges.
Recent studies have highlighted that Chilean traditional approach of aquifer conceptual models need to be reviewed. An example, that supports the need to have conceptual models more in line with the complex hydrogeological reality of Chile, is the new insight about the role of Andean Piedmont and Western Front in recharge processes of the sedimentary basins aquifers. Reservoirs so far neglected by management plans (e.g. fractured medium, complex architecture aquifers) may provide different perspectives for the groundwater resource exploration in Chile.
Effort have to be done in academia, water authorities and whole society to provide trained professionals, rules and knowledge that will face properly and in time with water resources issues due to the increasing anthropogenic and climate changes.
This work is funded by FONDECYT Projects 1170569 and is a contribution to the Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA) FONDAP/CONICYT Project 15090013 and to ECOS 180055. Taucare’s PhD studies are funded by CONICYT-Beca Doctorado Nacional 21160325.