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Ministry of Public Works Re-evaluates Water Extraction Laws

The Ministry of Public Works. Photo: Gobierno de Chile.

SANTIAGO — The Chilean government has released a project that will allow local communities to represent themselves in the water extraction arena.

Minister of Public Works Laurence Golborne attended a special government session focused on garnering professional opinions about water extraction legislation in the country.

The new law brings about important benefits in situations regarding water extraction. Senator Jaime Quintana stated, “Our plan is to analyze the project sent in by the Executive and streamline the legal procedures at the General Directorate of Water for everyone who participates in the project.”

“An important part of the initiative is to reduce paperwork and, consequently, the costs of water extraction legal procedures. This will benefit irrigation specialists from the most productive zones of the country,” Quintana added. “Another part of the initiative aims to raise sanctions for illegal water extraction which, according to Minister Golborne, occurs frequently in large mines and hydroelectric companies.”

Senator Quintana affirmed that the government had taken various professional opinions into consideration, consulting a number of different experts on water extraction legislation in the process.

He also mentioned that the National Society of Agriculture does not approve of the new project, since they disagree with the projected sanction increases.

Senator García-Huidobro explained that illegal water extraction concerns small and medium farmers, who have always relied on their own water supply but have not been recognized by the General Directorate of Water. “These farmers have generally not produced legal documents. They simply own the land because of traditional inheritance systems, which makes things problematic,” he said.  “As is, the project indicates that the same penalty for illegal water extraction should be applied to a small farmer.  This needs to be discussed and, hopefully, altered.”

Minister Golborne lauded the initiative.  “Today, sanctions for illegal water extraction can reach a maximum of 200,000 pesos, which does not truly deter the action. Hopefully, higher sanctions will prevent large-scale issues like those in the north of Chile, which has a long history of illegal water extraction,” he added.

The project concerning sanctions for illegal extraction is set to be completed by August.