science writer | photographer

francesco fiondella

Essay | Managing Water in a Dry Land

Modesto Geraldo, 61 Elqui River Valley, Chile. A goat herder, Modesto Geraldo and his family represent one of the most drought-​vulnerable communities in Coquimbo. Taken May 1, 2013.

The Elqui River is fed by snowmelt from the Andes and that collects in two large reservoirs, one of which is the Puclaro Reservoir. A widespread, multiyear drought that started in 2009 has depleted the Puclaro to only 10 percent of its capacity as of May 2013. Old villages that were abandoned and inundated after the Puclaro dam was built are now completely exposed and bone dry. Since 2010, the Earth Institute’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society along with UNESCO and their colleagues in Chile have been working with Elqui’s water authority to help them use seasonal forecasts as way to better allocate water and prepare for droughts. The water authority used these forecasts to generate water availability estimates for the first time in 2012. Now the goal is to better-​integrate the climate information into policies that impact water management across the region. To learn more about the people of the Elqui basin and IRI’s work there, take a look at a new visual story IRI has put together for World Day to Combat Desertification (#WDCD2013). Note : there’s an audio track of ambient sounds from Elqui that will play automatically.