Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Ángela Rojas Escudero: Río Choapa Joint Board of Control Salamanca, Chile

Years working in irrigation: 20+

Years as manager: 6

Number of employees: 17

Size of service area in acres: 39,536

Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 62,873

Main crops irrigated: Pisco grapes, walnuts, avocados, citrus fruits, apricots, pasture

Predominant irrigation methods: Drip, furrow

Irrigation Leader: What is the top issue facing your irrigation district today?

Ángela Rojas: The board of control’s top objective is to distribute water to its users in accordance with their water rights, both in terms of quantity and quality. Because of the long drought that we have been dealing with for more than 10 years—which caused a 90 percent deficit of precipitation, both rain and snow, in 2019—this distribution is more and more complex. Our efforts are focused on water efficiency and storage and on the search for new sources of water. The board of control is making use of groundwater to supply our irrigation canals, and local mining companies are developing desalination projects to supply water for industrial use.

Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for?

Ángela Rojas: The palpable effects of climate change mean that the reduction of available water is the main future issue we need to face. In terms of water distribution and conveyance, we are investing more than 1.2 million pesos (US$1,500) a year in the improvement of on-farm irrigation. As for storage, our main project is the construction of a 62,425 acre-foot head reservoir. We also support the construction of small reservoirs, both on farm and by water users’ associations and other similar bodies. We are implementing the integrated control of surface water and groundwater and constructing a set of wells so as to draw from the aquifer during periods of water scarcity and to recharge it during periods of abundance.

Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel?

Ángela Rojas: You need the right personnel to carry out the tasks—both technical and administrative—that are required for the efficient administration of the board of control. It is important to comply with labor law, to respect workers’ rights, and to safeguard their security.

Irrigation Leader: What training do you currently provide your employees?

Ángela Rojas: We give all our workers monthly training on various safety techniques so that they can carry out their activities in a more secure manner. In addition, we have a yearly training plan that workers can make use of.

Irrigation Leader: How much do you spend on training for your employees each year?

Ángela Rojas: We have a yearly training budget of 10 million pesos (US$12,727) as well as a yearly risk prevention budget of 10 million pesos (US$12,727), which includes risk prevention training.

Irrigation Leader: What is the most important thing you have learned as manager?

Ángela Rojas: In this job, you learn something every day, in the personal realm as well as the professional and technical realms. In the personal realm, it has been important to learn how to act as a nexus between the board of directors, the employees, and our users, recognizing their needs and giving them better technical-economic solutions.

Irrigation Leader: What are the top skills needed to be a successful manager?

Ángela Rojas: The main thing a manager needs to keep in mind is to plan for their objectives and goals while considering the human and economic resources they have available. It is also important to have the ability to get and generate sources of resources, whether through private projects or government-funded ones. 

Ángela Rojas Escudero is general manager of the Río Choapa Joint Board of Control (Junta de Vigilancia Río Choapa y sus Afluentes) in Salamanca, Chile. For more about the Río Choapa Joint Board of Control, visit www.jvriochoapa.cl.