The first national survey of seawater processing plants found that the facilities in operation in the country currently have a combined capacity of 8,200 liters per second. The report states that that number could triple by 2028.
Like many countries, Chile has faced a severe water crisis in recent years due to a lack of rain and the resulting drought, which has led to a significant decrease in the availability of this essential resource. In response, Chile has promoted the construction of desalination plants, many of which are linked to large-scale mining, the country’s main source of income.
In an effort to measure the progress that has been made and design a water adaptation solution based on desalination, the Chilean Desalination Association (Acades) and the Mining Ministry in collaboration with the Scientific Advisory Council on Climate Change (C4) of the Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation Ministry drafted the country’s first national survey of seawater desalination plants and projects that have a capacity of more than 20 liters per second.
The report states that there are 31 plants of this kind in operation and in the planning stages, including: 22 in operation, six under construction, three that have received environmental approval and 12 at the preliminary assessment stage.
In addition, the report found that the operational facilities have a combined capacity of 8,200 liters per second. The survey results suggest that this number will rise to 25,000 liters per second if all of the projects materialize between now and 2028. This growth, which triples current capacity, will depend on the approval and execution of the over 20 initiatives that are not yet operational.
“We believe it important to describe Chile’s installed capacity for producing desalinated water and the various projects under development because it shows the knowledge that has been acquired with respect to this technology and its reach, complexities and benefits. It also gives us a positive, hopeful perspective that lets us reassure the population and future generations that we can address the water deficit that many parts of the country are facing due to climate change in a responsible, reliable and efficient manner,” says Alberto Kresse, President of the Technology and Innovation Committee and Director of Acades.
The idea of surveying the plants and proposed projects emerged in response to the publication of the report “Desalination: Opportunities and Challenges Related to Addressing Water Insecurity in Chile” by the C4 Committee, a document that discusses various aspects of this technology.
“There has been an increase in the number of industrial desalination plants in northern Chile since the 1990s. Despite this, Chile did not have a centralized source of official information on desalination projects and facilities, which is why the first survey is a huge step forward. Desalination has emerged as an option for addressing the water scarcity that much of the country is experiencing,” adds Sebastián Vicuña, Director of Centro Global UC and a scientist with C4.
Investment in Chile’s Various Regions
Northern Chile's Antofagasta Region is currently home to 13 desalination plants that serve various sectors. Atacama has five such facilities, Valparaíso has two and both Biobío and Magallanes have one. The Tarapacá, Coquimbo and possibly O'Higgins regions will soon follow suit.
“Seawater desalination is essential in Antofagasta because it provides fresh water to much of the population and the mining industry. It is becoming more important for the water supply for human consumption and various industries in Tarapacá and Atacama as well,” explains Acades Vice President María Paz Cerda.
The executive added, “In regions like Coquimbo, Valparaíso and O’Higgins, these facilities represent hope in a context of growing surface water scarcity. They represent one of the approaches that could remedy the water supply issues that the population and productive and industrial activities are experiencing in the medium- and long-term.”
For her part, Diana Ewing, Business Development Manager at Engie Energía Chile, notes, “If we think about the coming decades and the current context of climate change and water scarcity that we are facing as a society, seawater desalination is one of the available solutions. We have the capacity and technological maturity to meet the demand for fresh water generated by sustainable growth in the country. Although Chile has over 20 medium and large plants, the volume of new water sources is insufficient. The country has areas in which the water deficit can only be remedied through desalination.”
To learn more about infrastructure opportunities in Chile, see the following article.
Source: El Mercurio