Incorporating climate change adaptation strategies in urban water supply planning: the case of central Chile

Published in Journal of Water and Climate Change, v. 5(3):357

Bonelli, S., Vicu na, S., Meza, F.J., Gironás, J. and Barton, J.

Publication year 2014
  • Centro Interdisciplinario de Cambio Global UC, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile
  • Departamento de Ecosistemas y Medio Ambiente. Facultad de Agronomía e Ingeniería Forestal. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile
  • Departamento de Ingeniería Hidráulica y Ambiental, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile
  • Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales UC. Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Estudios Urbanos, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile
  • Centro de Desarrollo Urbano Sustentable CONICYT/FONDAP/15110020, Avenida Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Santiago, Chile, Chile
IAI Program


IAI Project CRN3056


Water management systems have been typically designed and operated under the assumption of stationarity. This assumption may no longer be valid under climate change scenarios. Water availability may change dramatically at some locations due mainly to possible impacts of changes in temperature and precipitation over streamflow volume and seasonality, adding pressure to water supply systems. It has been shown that snowmelt-dominated basins are particularly sensitive to such changes. Hence, human settlements and economic activities developed in such areas are particularly vulnerable. The Maipo river basin in Central Chile &ndash where more than 6 million people live &ndash is one of these areas. We used a calibrated water resources model of the Maipo river basin, in order to propose a general framework to evaluate adaptation options at the urban level. When comparing a mid-21st century period to a historic control period, results for three selected performance metrics showed a decrease in water system performance. Adaptation measures were evaluated in their
capacity to maintain current water security standards. Two alternatives stand as highly effective options to this end: water rights purchases and improvements in water use efficiency. The political and economic costs of implementing these options, which could deem them unviable, are not considered here but are worthy of further research.