hile is a country of 18 million people, stretching 2,600 miles north-to-south along the Pacific Coast of South America. Its dramatic landscape includes mountains, deserts, fjords, and fertile valleys. In February, I led an Irrigation Leader tour to this amazing country. We saw how farmers, water managers, and civil servants are working to fight Chile’s serious droughts and cultivate grapes, avocados, citrus fruits, vegetables, and other crops in north-central Chile’s transverse valleys. In these pages, you will read our participants’ reactions to the tour and see where they went.
Rubicon—an Australian company that American irrigators know well—has opened its own Santiago office. We speak with Gastón Sagredo about how Rubicon’s technology is helping boards of control and canal associations fight Chile’s fierce droughts.
The Choapa River and Elqui River boards of control manage deliveries of two snowpack-derived rivers in north- central Chile. Each board of control provides water to several thousand users, subdivided into canal associations and water communities—some of which have been in continuous operation for well over 150 years.
We also speak with Federico Errázuriz, the head of Chile’s National Irrigation Commission—the equivalent of the Bureau of Reclamation—about how his agency subsidizes critical irrigation infrastructure. Interestingly, the commission provides funding to projects only after they are finished and operational.
If all this talk of drought is making your mouth dry, we also bring you a story about the production of pisco grapes, the main ingredient in Chile’s traditional brandy, pisco, which is gaining in popularity around the world.
Even though Chile is thousands of miles away, irrigators there face many of the same problems that American farmers do: drought, supply issues, user conflicts, and funding issues. Comparing and contrasting the American and Chilean situations was fascinating and enlightening. We hope that this issue of Irrigation Leader will give you a taste of this amazing country.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@waterstrategies.com.