Abstract

Agricultural activity in Chile is very important both in terms of economic impact and in particular in terms of social aspects. This activity depends on great extent, and over most of the territory, on the availability and the efficient use of water for irrigation purposes. Taking this into account, both the Chilean government and the private sector have made significant investment efforts for the improvement of irrigation infrastructure. For example, the Law 18.450 has provoked an important increment on the irrigated surface in Chile. Also, the water code, which dates from 1981, was recently modified, with the aim of introduce modifications allowing a better access and use of water by the privates.

Within this context, it is also worth to mention that the Chilean Government has defined as one of the strategic lines of actions of the governmental plan to transform Chile into a leading producer of agricultural goods and food by 2010. Although it is true that this goal include several components, it seems rather clear that water management in relation with agriculture will continue to be a key aspect of the strategy as well as Chilean Governmental efforts. Moreover, recently (2006) it was published, by a Chilean Governmental Institution the "Agricultural Innovation Agenda", where are defined and proposed innovation actions in 15

*Corresponding author key productive chains and themes, being one of them water resources. There are several specific lineaments and actions described in the referred document representing the visions of public entities (Universities, Research institutions) as well as the private sector. Some of the lineaments defined in that document, can be summarized in the following way: "To promote an integrated vision of water resources at the watershed level, in relation with the water market improvement and to the availability and use of base information of water to be used for irrigation purposes, avoiding environmental pollution problems". Based on this premise, and considering the information gathered and obtained by the authors, an analysis is done in relation to current agricultural water resources situation as well as research opportunities for the Chilean irrigated agricultural activity, mainly based on particular, but widely representative, experiences in two basins of the North-Central South-Central zones.

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