Chile must have a regulation that incorporates new sources of water resources, including the recycling of treated wastewater, with a development in accordance with the OECD countries and with international progress in this area, which also serves as a solution to the water shortage that it is going through. the country.
Santiago de Chile.- There have been 13 years of drought in Chile, the longest period of water scarcity in the country. Situation that has generated a number of socio-environmental, economic, food and social problems.
Within the framework of the World Drought and Desertification Day, the academic and researcher of the UNAB, Guido Carvajal, academic of the Faculty of Engineering of the U. Andrés Bello, expert in the matter, explains if wastewater is an option viable to mitigate the “Mega Drought”.
Is wastewater a solution for the drought in Chile? Let us remember that the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) declared that currently, 50% of the 346 communes have a shortage of this vital element, therefore, seeking mechanisms that help optimize its use and find new water sources is now imperative. The generation of wastewater is only 40 m3/s which represents less than 10% of the current total demand for water with a flow close to 490 m3/s, considering the sectors, agriculture, mining, drinking water and sanitation, industrial and livestock. This makes it necessary to look for additional alternatives to meet this demand.
“The use of wastewater can be one of the solutions that can contribute to mitigating drought, however, by itself it will not solve the problem. The main reason has to do with the supply and demand for water that we have,” says Carvajal.
“Integrated solutions that reduce the demand and/or increase the supply of water resources should be considered, including alternatives based on infrastructure, including desalination, water recycling, artificial recharge of aquifers, transfer between basins; in management, with alternatives such as irrigation technology, water distribution agreements, supervision and control, and good practices; and in nature, with options such as re-vegetation, natural recharge of aquifers, construction of artificial wetlands, sustainable agricultural practices, among others”, are part of the ideas proposed by the expert.
In this context, Chile must have a regulation that incorporates new sources of water resources, including the recycling of treated wastewater, with a development consistent with the OECD countries and international progress in this area. In our country, progress in this area is still limited, with only Law 21075 on the reuse of gray water. On this point, Guido Carvajal declares that “it is necessary to work on a water policy that considers the reuse of water as an alternative to the problems of water scarcity in the country, which resolves legal, environmental, economic and social gaps. Progress must be made in a regulatory framework from the point of view of quality and risk to health and the environment, considering the various uses that recycled water can have. Among the points to be evaluated, the best treatment processes that allow the removal of various types of contaminants, including pathogens and emerging contaminants present in treated wastewater, should be considered.
How can we contribute from home to take care of the waters?
The wastewater generated in the home, whether it is black or gray water, requires treatment in order to be used without generating risks to the health of the population. However, the expert assures that great structural work is required to manage to occupy this wastewater on a large scale, since, as an example, projects such as the residential condominiums of Sydney Olympic Park, in Sydney Australia, which have dual systems could be considered. water supply with potable and recycled water. Another alternative, a little more advanced or perhaps considered radical, would be to recycle wastewater treated with advanced procedures through existing drinking water networks, which is known as drinking water recycling, a concept that is already used in countries like the United States. , Namibia, Australia or Singapore.
“At the level of homes in Chile, it is difficult for such dual systems to be used in the short or medium term in existing buildings, because additional infrastructure would be needed both at the level of distribution networks and within homes,” concludes the academic. from UNAB.