It’s a set of 60 alternatives aimed at families and small-scale agriculture, developed from informative surveys and fieldwork with communities in Olmué, Panquehue, and Casablanca.
In a context marked by a water crisis, our country experiences the daily consequences of prolonged drought and precipitation deficit, in a complex scenario that keeps 98 communes under scarcity decree and 275 in a state of agricultural emergency. In response to this, the search for alternatives to ensure the supply of families and guarantee the functioning of productive activities has become an increasingly urgent necessity.
In this regard, and with the goal of implementing low-cost and environmentally friendly solutions, the Scientific Technological Center of Valparaíso (CCTVal), through the Strategic Innovation Fund in Drought of the National Agency of Research and Development (ANID), carried out the Drought Project during 2022 and 2023. The project was aimed at identifying gaps faced by communities in water management and developing technology to increase the availability of this resource, improving its efficiency in use and ensuring supply for human consumption and food production.
“Our intention with this project was to provide solutions to improve water management in communities affected by drought, bridging the gap between the wealth of available information and the people, linking knowledge with their needs,” says Paula Guerra, director of the CCTVal project and academic at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the Federico Santa María Technical University.
According to the researcher, this transfer translates into technological alternatives and the development of a set of solutions aimed at families and small-scale agriculture (up to two hectares) in areas affected by drought.
“We have proposed technologies and are evaluating their technical and economic feasibility. For example, we are working on systems for collecting atmospheric water through mist collectors and also on subsystems for treating graywater, for its reuse in washing,” she comments.
Additionally, the project includes the development of a desalination system aimed at collecting seawater or water from wells with high levels of salinity and then separating salt and water through evaporation, recovering the latter through a condensation process. Although this system is “on a smaller scale and does not desalinate as much water as a traditional system,” Dr. Guerra explains that it is a more economical alternative that can be useful for coastal communities or those near wells affected by drought.
As a result of thorough information gathering and continuous engagement with communities in Olmué, Panquehue, and Casablanca throughout the project, the research team has developed a set of solutions aimed at optimizing water use, promoting its reuse at the household and small-scale farming level.
The proposals, available on their website, present measures adaptable to different contexts based on the impact of water scarcity at an individual or community level, incorporating actions classified by cost, implementation time, and user type.
“Within the catalog, you can find everything from free self-training courses in water management and installation of irrigation systems to fixing inefficient plumbing and adopting water-saving habits. People can select a price range and the period they have to implement solutions, as there are options ranging from $0 to $20,000, or even some above $1 million for those able to make a larger investment. As for the timelines, they can be less than three months, between three months and a year, or longer than a year,” explains the academic.
How it works
To access the catalog, you simply need to visit www.catalogosequia.com and go to the “Catalog of Solutions” section. Once there, you can select the type of problem and filter the alternatives by price range, desired implementation period, and user type.
Among the solutions presented on the website, there are concrete implementation actions, such as the acquisition and construction of commercial dry toilets, systems for obtaining water from air humidity, and water treatment mechanisms. However, the catalog also includes complementary actions such as information on applying for water management funds, guidance on forming rural sanitation service cooperatives, and procedures for making contacts or complaints to relevant environmental authorities.
“In overall terms, the project has been positive. It allowed us to approach the communities in a way we wouldn’t have achieved otherwise. We listened to them and learned about a very intense reality they are experiencing, which goes beyond the available information and figures. We know there is a drought, but understanding the particular, daily discomfort that people experience is crucial, and this catalog is the result of having understood that reality. Ultimately, as engineers and technological centers, part of our mission is to get closer to society and provide solutions, and that’s what we did with this project,” Guerra concludes.
The ANID FSEQ210038 project will conclude with the seminar “Confronting Drought: Technologies and Solutions Developed for the Water Emergency,” which will take place on Thursday, August 3, starting at 12:30 PM in the Auditorium of Building T on the Central Campus of the USM.
Along with Dr. Guerra, the following individuals were also part of the team: Christian Romero, project subdirector and CCTVal researcher; Nina Hormazábal, Director of Community Engagement at the Central Campus of USM and academic at the Department of Architecture of the same university; Hernán Astudillo, academic at the Department of Informatics at USM and CCTVal researcher; and Adrián Ortiz, academic at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at USM. Together, with the support of a group of associated researchers, engineers, and students, they were responsible for designing technologies, searching for alternative water sources, engaging with communities, and developing the Maturity Model for the web catalog.