Record-breaking drought in Chile is vision of the climate crisis

While Chile has been going through a drought for the past decade, July was particularly dry

Kelsie Sandoval
In New York
Wednesday 11 August 2021 23:03 BST
Fire destroys church in Chile
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Andres Couve, the science minister of Chile, has said addressing the climate crisis is a “national priority” after years of minimal rainfall.

Lying in the southern hemisphere, Chile’s winter months are in July and August. But the weather hasn’t shown the typical signs of winter: no snowcaps and low reservoir levels.

While Chile has been going through a drought for the past decade, July was particularly dry. So far, Chile has had 78 mm of rainfall this year, down from 180mm last year.

Mr Couve said the lack of rain is a clear sign of the climate crisis. "We already have overwhelming evidence and it is climatic evidence," Mr Couve told Reuters. "We are seeing a very significant decrease in rainfall and that is generating water shortages."

Droughts are a telltale sign of the climate crisis, affecting nearly every region of the world. When there’s too much heat in the air, more moisture evaporates from the soil, leading to dry conditions. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an arm of the United Nations, said as temperatures rise, droughts are becoming more frequent . And human activity is to blame for the uptick in the frequency of droughts.

The Chilean government is dealing with the water shortage by investing in water conservation and storage, creating a sub secretary of water position, and assembling a working group on how to manage water.

Other groups in Chile have also tried to find solutions to the water drought. Utility companies, for example, have invested in new infrastructure in hopes of preventing “Day Zero,” in which no water comes out of a tap.

Although Chile hasn’t faced “Day Zero”, other counties have felt the consequences of water shortages. In 2017 in South Africa, for example, ran out of drinkable water and the residents had to have daily rations of water to control use. Federal officials in the US will declare a water shortage for the Colorado river when Lake Mead evaporates to a certain level.

Experts say because Chile’s drought is more likely to worsen due to the climate crisis, the country needs to build more water reservoirs.

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