Friday, June 21, 2013

Water week in Latin America: An opportunity for better water management

There are many agricultural zones in Latin America, which currently faces water scarcity . At the same time, water demand is increasing because of mining and energy sectors investments, and human consumption. The implications goes beyond supply and demand. Actually Mining investment in particular, have to be based on desalination process of sea water to cope with its water demand which compete with other needs. This change of water sources from natural to sea water, has increased mining production costs. Those agricultural product highly water intensive, cannot be produced in areas with water scarcity. Thus, Tomatoes (3237m3/acre),and Onions (2670m3 /acre) production ,requires a lot of more water, than lettuce (1668m3/acre), and carrot (1214 m3/acre). The expected prices of tomatoes and onions may be higher than anyone can anticipate. On the supply side, there is also a lack of management model of water. In Chile for example, 80% of water available fade away into the sea. Therefore, a better water management model is required. There are already some alternatives available, such as WEAP (Water evaluation and planning),SAWP (State wide agricultural production), and a combination of both the so called EconWEAP implemented in California, USA. These models are related with the improvement of decision making process, concerning the use of water in agricultural activities . The EconWEAP approach for example , provide water supply simulation to cope with water demand preferences in each area, taking into account any specific year and its characteristics, to build up a model for optimization and maximization of profits, taking into account social cost.- Last March, the First Water Week in Latin America ,was organized in Santiago ,Chile. 40 countries, 500 attendants and 40 speakers, represent a strong commitment to discuss the issue of water scarcity , trends and opportunities. The preparations already started for the next event to take place in México in 2014.- But is it this problem just a matter of Firms and Governments? .What about the consumers behavior ?.It is obvious that consumers must change the current consumption pattern. In Chile, there is no water scarcity, but a mismanagement of it. The south is plenty of water, while the north is fighting the draught and its consequences. Some have suggested the fantastic idea of a water highway,(water pipe line) which means to transport water from south to north. But other countries and areas do not have such a chance, but to face a critical problem and to solve it. So, Governments need to set new policies about water. But , Consumers are a very important part of the equation. Each one of us, consume daily at least 100 hundred liters of waters (showers, Washing hands, drinking. laundry and so forth). But also we waste a lot of water (Car washing,garden maintenance and the like).- Wiser use of water is not a matter of just better Institutions or Government policies, or business practices and Social responsibility criteria .It is also a matter of improving awareness about the importance of protecting water.Otherwise, the price we will have to pay for water consumption , will rise far above what we usually pay.