The Chilean Water Institutionality is Built From the Territories by Water Scenarios 2030

  • The proposal “Basin-based Water Governance: Institutional Framework for Water Security in Chile” presented by the WS2030 initiative is the result of a comprehensive multi-sectoral work that brought together over 700 people.

After 18 months of multi-sector work, with over 700 participants representing more than 370 institutions, Water Scenarios 2030 (WS2030) presented its proposal for the institutional framework for the management of water resources in Chile. It highlights a short-term implementation strategy, strengthening and transforming the General Water Directorate (DGA, for its initials in Spanish) into a National Authority of Water Resources

Furthermore, it considers making use of the capacities of the regional DGA to create -with the appropriate modifications- a Basin Water Resources Management Authority together with a Basin Water Resources Committee.

“In the short run, while progress is made at the legislative level in formalizing this new institutional framework, we suggest the development of a National Water Resources Policy and Plan alongside a National Information System promoted at the national and subnational levels,” is what Ulrike Broschek, leader of WS2030 and assistant manager of Sustainability at Fundación Chile explained.

The specialist added that “at the regional level, the DGA, which will become the Basin(s) Authority in coordination with Regional Ministerial Secretaries, it will support in forming the future Basin Committees together with the Regional Governments for the planning and implementation of water solutions through public-private collaboration…”

Thus, the proposal consists of an institutional framework at two levels: a national and a river basin level.

As Paul Dourojeanni, WS2030’s head of governance and institutionalism, explained, “the participation of the territories and related stakeholders is indispensable in this design, something that is currently insufficient. This is why the proposal is called ‘Basin-based Governance: Institutional Framework for Water Security in Chile’,” he explained.

“It is a proposal to adjust the institutional framework, collectively created from the territories themselves, with a robust technical base, which will allow decision makers to adapt water resources management to the local reality, to meet Chile’s current and future challenges,” he added.

Institutional Scope

At a basin (or basins) level, there is a need for an organization with a political and technical component (committee and authority) that takes in account the territorial and its inhabitants’ reality.

Currently in the country, the institutional framework is dispersed among 56 public bodies and decisions are made at a central administration level. This, according to WS2030, does not allow the different realities of Chile’s 101 river basins to be considered.

At a national level, an entity with a political and a technical body is also being considered, a National Committee of Water Resources and a National Authority of Water Resources. “Currently, the DGA – created after the Great Drought of 1968 – concentrates 72% of the statutory functions attributed by law to lead the management of water resources, which makes it the best suited entity to be the National Authority of Water Resources,” said Broschek.

Additionally, Dourojeanni commented “the analysis we have carried out (Water Transition, WS2030, 2019) evidence that, if the water resources management model is not changed now, Chile will soon reach an unsustainable water situation that will be difficult to enmend. Considering the urgency of the problem, our proposal is elaborated in such a way that its implementation can be undertaken in the short run.”

The proposal’s presentation was followed by a panel, moderated by journalist Matías del Río, addressing the country’s challenges in terms of water institutions. The panel included the head of Peru’s National Water Authority (ANA), Roberto Salazar Gonzales; former minister and former senator Sergio Bitar Chacra; academic and expert in Environmental Water Law at the University of Concepción, Verónica Delgado Schneider, Secretary-Lawyer of the Maipo River Vigilance Board, First Section, Natalia Dasencich Celedón, as well as Ulrike Broschek.

Delgado expressed her support for the governance proposed by Water Scenarios 2030, “mainly because of the way it was constructed, it’s systemic view and the degree of decentralization it proposes.” Dasencich, for her part, pointed out that “the cities are very disconnected from their basins. There is a lack of instruments to coordinate and address the challenges related to water scarcity and to develop the management of the third user, which is the environment.”

In addition, former Minister Bitar, expressed his agreement with the incorporation of the basin line of action where progress should be made increasingly. “A national strategy is needed, which Chile does not have. The current institutional system is not enough,” he said. Meanwhile, from Peru’s ANA, Salazar stressed the importance of having an independent authority, whose work has a continuity that goes beyond political and governmental cycles.

“It is essential to establish and define a autonomus body of constitutional rank recognizing in it the existence of the basin organizations. This will provide sufficient power and autonomy to the new water institutionality to make the necessary decisions for the benefit of the country’s water security,” said Broschek.

Water Scenarios 2030 began its work in 2016 aiming to contribute with water security for Chile by 2050. It operates under the coordination of Fundación Chile, Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, and Fundación Avina. “We hope this work will be useful for all the actors involved and that it will contribute to the solutions that the country needs,” commented Marcos Kulka, FCh’s CEO. While the representative in Chile of Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, Diego Luna, added that “we need a new institutional framework, to change the centralized model that exists today, providing the territories with a greater say, with a view to decentralization.” Leonardo Moreno, head of Fundación Avina in Chile, emphasized that “we currently have 56 state agencies that are empowered by law to manage water resources, which prevents an understanding and comprehensive view of the problem.”

Florencia Attademo-Hirt, IDB representative in Chile, who has collaborated as a WS2030 financier together with ZomaLAB and Corfo, also greeted the audience. “The bank is committed to promoting solutions, cross-sector coordination and innovation,” said Attademo-Hir.

Process

The collective co-construction process from which this proposal emerged began in March 2020, where 745 people participated, from 371 institutions (productive sector, public sector, academia, water users, NGOs, Rural Sanitation Services -ex RPA-, municipalities, among others), through basin workshops, sectoral and technical tables, in addition to the Advisory Committee, which provides strategic guidance to WS2030. Over 30 interviews were conducted with experts, authorities, and institutions related to water resources management. In addition, management, and institutional models of at least 8 countries (France, Israel, Italy, Spain, Australia, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil) were analyzed and more than 50 reports, assessments, and proposals were reviewed.

Learn more about the process in this video:

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