Need for an Integrated Management

The concept of integrated development of basins considers that every action carried out on a delimited physical territory will affect the surroundings, and therefore the growth and development of a territory must be harmonic with natural resources. Whether it is an industrial, municipal or agricultural demand, it must necessarily be evaluated by the actors and users of the basin. Here are included, among others, technical, legal, juridical and administrative organisms. Therefore, development of the agricultural activity under irrigation in Chile, and the associated investigations, will require a holistic approach on a Basin level, so that it can be internalized that the agricultural activity is not developed individually, but linked to a series of technical, commercial, legal and environmental elements, both internal (local and national) and external (international). In relation to this, Chile is the Latin American country with the largest number of free trade treaties. The major chains of food distribution of commercial partners in Chile are the ones that increasingly demand health, innocuousness and quality measures. Consequently, it is important to end this chapter briefly mentioning the current situation of the integrated management of basins in Chile and of the scenarios foreseen on short and middle term.

Integrated management of basins is a group of actions that determine the management of a basin, originated from the base of the territory in question through the multi-participative work of users to protect, for example, the water quality and the natural balance of water ecosystems. The concept of integrated management is born with a strong decentralization and local valorization component since every basin is specific.

Even though basin integral management is a new concept in Chile, such concept still lacks of a constitutional and legal frame, and it is addressed, for the time being, in an extremely sectorial way, with legislative adjustments only through the water code. The possibility to apply this discipline not only would allow to achieve territorial planning and zoning, but also to comply with the international compromises and demands acquired by the country. Thus, even if there is not a clear legislation about this issue in Chile, there are some initiatives and debates around the integral management of water resources at the level of hydrographic basin, especially after the 90's. Nevertheless, in practice, evidence and experience are rather scarce. The DGA is the State organism that has implemented the most important actions towards this goal since 1994, starting with the Bío-Bío Basin (37o S), in the homonym region, then in the Arica Basin (18o30' S), Arica-Parinacota Region; Aconcagua Basin (33o S), in the Valparaíso Region and, recently, on the Choapa Basin (31o30' S), in the Coquimbo Region. The instruments developed and used include the Directive Guidelines (Planes Directores), for the period 1997-2003, and the support of the basin organisms and the public institutions. However, these initiatives remain as proposals without making significant progress, with partial or sectorial achievements that are far away from the concept of integrated basin management, mainly because of financing problems and lack of the companying legislation. Recently, the National Environmental Agency (Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente), CONAMA has been also addressing the subject of basin management initiating a National Integrated Basin Management Strategy, which is currently on a design stage and evaluation of the legal, economical, social, environmental feasibility. Regardless the results of this specific initiative, it is clear that according to the internal political interests and to the demands of external markets, Chilean agriculture and the development of irrigation will have to consider elements beyond purely technical aspects. Surely, these issues will have to be addressed by the new lines of investigation and development policies that will have to be implemented bearing in mind irrigation agriculture.


In Chile there is a shared vision by the State and the private sector, which is to become an agricultural food power. This vision generates needs for research that have been partially addressed by the national scientific community. However, this investigation brings forth new questions on the interactions among agriculture-water resources, society and environment. This leads us to affirm that investigation on agricultural water management is actually an open field full of questions and opportunities, and this investigation must consider local, national and international aspects, on a highly dynamic scenario.

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