VOLUME 10 ISSUE 4
IRRIGATION LEADER TOURS CHILE
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CONTENTS APRIL 2019 Volume 10 Issue 4
Irrigation Leader is published 10 times a year with combined issues for July/August and November/December by
STAFF: Kris Polly, Editor-in-Chief Joshua Dill, Managing Editor Tyler Young, Writer Nicole E. Venable, Graphic Designer SUBMISSIONS: Irrigation Leader welcomes manuscript, photography, and art submissions. However, the right to edit or deny publishing submissions is reserved. Submissions are returned only upon request. For more information, please contact our office at (202) 698-0690 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ADVERTISING: Irrigation Leader accepts one-quarter, half-page, and full-page ads. For more information on rates and placement, please contact Kris Polly at (703) 517-3962 or email@example.com.
5 Fascinating Chile By Kris Polly 8 A Map of the Tour 9 Reflections on the Tour Experience 11 Managing Chile’s Scarce Water Resources: Rubicon Chile
19 Irrigation in the Elqui Valley 25 Managing Water in Chile: The National Irrigation Commission IRRIGATED CROP 31 Pisco Grapes: Part of Chile’s Historical, Cultural, and Economic Heritage
38 Classifieds 14 Fighting Prolonged Drought BUSINESS LEADER in the Choapa River Valley DISTRICT PROFILE ASSOCIATION PROFILE
CIRCULATION: Irrigation Leader is distributed to irrigation district managers and boards of directors in the 17 western states, Bureau of Reclamation officials, members of Congress and committee staff, and advertising sponsors. For address corrections or additions, please contact our managing editor, Joshua Dill, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2018 Water Strategies LLC. Irrigation Leader relies on the excellent contributions of a variety of natural resources professionals who provide content for the magazine. However, the views and opinions expressed by these contributors are solely those of the original contributor and do not necessarily represent or reflect the policies or positions of Irrigation Leader magazine, its editors, or Water Strategies LLC. The acceptance and use of advertisements in Irrigation Leader do not constitute a representation or warranty by Water Strategies LLC or Irrigation Leader magazine regarding the products, services, claims, or companies advertised. /IrrigationLeader
Do you have a story idea for an upcoming issue? Contact our editor-in-chief, Kris Polly, at email@example.com.
4 | IRRIGATION LEADER
COVER PHOTO: The Irrigation Leader tour group. Photo courtesy of Kris Polly.
PHOTO COURTESY OF KRIS POLLY.
Coming soon in Irrigation Leader: May: Public Outreach June: Financing Water Projects
By Kris Polly
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 northcentral 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. IL 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A MAP OF THE TOUR
INDÓMITA VINEYARD: After flying into Santiago, Chile, the tour participants visited a vineyard in the nearby Casablanca Valley to learn about viticultural management and to taste the fruit of the land.
The tour group attended a presentation by the staff of Rubicon Chile in downtown Santiago. Santiago, a city of over 6 million, is the capital of Chile.
SALAMANCA: Next, the tour group traveled by bus to Salamanca, a city on the banks of the Choapa River, around 200 miles north of Santiago. There, participants visited the Choapa River Joint Board of Control. LA SERENA: The group traveled north to the seaside city of La Serena, founded in 1544, where participants met with the Elqui River Joint Board of Control and toured the Bellavista Canal Association. SANTIAGO: Back in Santiago, a meeting with the local Nature Conservancy group was followed by a presentation from the National Irrigation Commission, the government agency that is the Chilean equivalent of the Bureau of Reclamation.
REFLECTIONS ON THE TOUR EXPERIENCE 1. The tour was fantastic! The way Chileans manage their available water was fascinating to see. It seems that we all have problems with how to effectively manage this golden resource. Gastón and Javier, who led us through the irrigation districts, were informative and took time to explain how the Rubicon gate systems we saw worked. The delivery systems we saw, which
8 | IRRIGATION LEADER
used lined canals, were different from the systems the North Platte Natural Resources District (NRD) uses to manage water. Our systems are not lined, and we depend on canal seepage and slop to recharge the aquifer. The practice of farming avocados on the slopes of mountains was fascinating. We really enjoyed the perfect climate during our stay and appreciated the
warmhearted welcome we received from the people we encountered during the tour. We would like to thank Water Strategies, Kris, and Annick (bless her interpreting skills) for a well-planned and informative excursion! —Barb Cross, Assistant Manager, North Platte NRD; Leo Hoehn, Farmer and Irrigator, Scottsbluff, Nebraska
PHOTOS COURTESY OF KRIS POLLY.
2. Given my professional focus on working relationships between water users and their federal partners, I was most interested, after visiting with irrigators, with what we learned at the National Irrigation Commission (Comisión Nacional de Riego, CNR). The concept of reimbursable financing of projects rather than upfront financing was intriguing. It is positive that the support for the CNR’s subsidies is stable and in fact growing, even though its leadership changes every 5 years. Finally, I was surprised that irrigators in Chile do not use the tool of their legislators’ support for their projects, but found it refreshing that they seemed satisfied enough with the support they get from the executive branch not to employ that practice! —Christine Arbogast, President, Kogovsek & Associates 3. The tour was informative and provided me with a new appreciation for how alike people are. Irrigation delivery in Chile is similar to what it is like in the United States, and Chile has the same struggles: Improvement needs exceed financial resources, and the limiting factor is water. It was interesting to learn that the Chilean government funds 80–90 percent of project costs and the irrigation districts keep the water savings to expand acres. Since the government started funding irrigation projects in 1985, over 470,000 new acres have been developed. In addition, the districts manage the rivers, and once a project is paid off, the project proponent has to take ownership, even with large storage reservoirs. Title transfer is mandatory and immediate following loan payoff. The country is very old, having been settled by Spain in 1540. We met with the Bellavista Canal Association and learned that it has been in continuous operation for over 250 years. The districts we met with have a similar organizational structure to irrigation districts in the United States and are using technology to achieve similar goals, namely, accurate water resource management with less staff. The Elqui River Joint Board of Control delivers water to 34 canals and has as its demarcation point a Rubicon FlumeGate. Once the water passes over the gate, the board’s responsibility ends and it is up to the water users to figure out water use. As
with the Yakima Project, all districts are dependent on mountain snowpack for their water. Currently, water users are limited to just 37 percent of their allocation. In order to make to reduced allocation work, fields are fallowed and wells may be used if they predate 2004, when the government shut down all new groundwater withdrawals in two regions. The government regulates groundwater; no such national-level regulations exist for surface water. In was interesting to learn that water resource planning is limited to individual political regions, not watersheds. Forecasts are conducted by irrigation districts, not the government. It was interesting to hear the opinion expressed that the role of government needs to be increased, because only the government can bring people together who may not want to work together. —Chuck Freeman, Manager, Kennewick Irrigation District 4. Sherri and I had a great time on this trip. What I found interesting was Chilean farmers’ ability to grow crops on ground that in the United States would be wasteland. Not only did this rocky land produce crops, they were high-value crops and were grown well. When you thought the farmers had enough challenges, they would move up the sides of the mountains and grow more crops. All this was done with manual labor. The people of Chile were great hosts, and it was fun getting to know them. We also enjoyed getting to know everyone on the tour. The best part about a tour like this is going to places that normally are not considered tourist destinations. It was very interesting to see how the people of Chile were resolving the water issues that they experienced at the local level. Many of the water issues we face in the United States are the same in Chile—not enough water, too much government, and not enough money. —Brad Edgerton, Manager, Frenchman Cambridge Irrigation District 5. It doesn’t matter if we are in North or South America, agriculture has to continue to do its share to conserve and manage water so we can meet growing demands for food. —Gene Huffman, Vice President, Kennewick Irrigation District
PHOTOS COURTESY OF
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Rubicon installations at the Mallarauco Canal Association, Santiago Metropolitan Region.
Managing Chile’s Scarce Water Resources: Rubicon Chile
PHOTOS COURTESY OF RUBICON CHILE.
he Australian company Rubicon is a world leader in irrigation control and monitoring devices. For about 7 years, Rubicon has had a presence in Chile, a largely arid country where climatic changes are making irrigation efficiency ever more important. While at first Rubicon was represented in Chile by intermediaries, as of a year ago, it has its own independent office in Santiago, the country’s capital, from which it directs activities across South America. In this interview, Gastón Sagredo, chief of studies at Rubicon Chile, speaks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about how Rubicon’s technology is aiding Chile’s farmers, and about his experiences meeting the participants in Irrigation Leader’s recent tour of Chile.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position. Gastón Sagredo: Rubicon has been in Chile for about 7 years, but at first it was directed from Australia and was represented through intermediary companies. I was working in one of those businesses, and I got to know Rubicon’s technology through the press and through
training programs. I visited Australia through a training program that Rubicon held for its intermediary companies. Eventually, Rubicon decided to open an office in Chile, and 1 year ago, Rubicon Chile came into existence. In fact, this office manages work all over Latin America, including in Argentina, Peru, and Brazil. While they were setting up their office here in Santiago, the people from Rubicon remembered me and remembered that I already knew their technology, and they called me and offered me a job at Rubicon Chile. Right now, there are 10 people working here, and fortunately, we are making good progress. Joshua Dill: Would you please give us an overall picture of irrigated agriculture in Chile and how Rubicon’s products fit in the industry? Gastón Sagredo: Before I worked for Rubicon, I spent 15 years working for Chile’s National Irrigation Commission (Comisión Nacional de Riego, CNR), which is a governmental agency that provides funding to improve irrigation systems in Chile. This job allowed me to get to know the irrigation world, the various IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
problems that irrigators face, and the culture of our country’s farmers. Because our country is so extensive from north to south, its climate varies according to region. On the whole, however, we have been affected by climate change rather seriously. Our precipitation has diminished by quite a lot, meaning that there is less and less water available for irrigation. That reduction of precipitation has motivated farmers to search for technology to make their irrigation more efficient and to efficiently manage the resources they still have. Gradually, irrigation in Chile has been getting more technologically advanced. That is where Rubicon comes in. Rubicon technology enables the timely and exact delivery of the flow that farmers have assigned to them or that they own. Right now, it is the north of Chile that is suffering the worst water scarcity, while the south still has more water resources. All the same, even though the southern regions have a positive water balance, farmers there are looking at what is happening in the north and realizing that they need to make use of this kind of technology so that they can avoid shortage.
Joshua Dill: How does Rubicon find new clients in Chile?
Gastón Sagredo: Our principal way to find new clients is through recommendations by other users. However, we are also undertaking a campaign to visit various boards of control (juntas de vigilancia) and demonstrate Rubicon’s technology. That has opened doors with irrigators. Boards of control are in charge of naturally occurring hydrological resources, such as rivers. Then there are user-based canal associations, which are in charge of canals and other artificial structures. The boards of control are fairly well organized and are becoming more and more professionalized, so working with them is easy. Another thing that has been effective are technical visits, both within Chile and in Australia. We take farmers from the south to visit farmers in the north, where our products and technology are installed, and do a consultation. That’s how we get a lot of our clients.
flow, for example. However, because of water scarcity, many farmers don’t receive the total amount they are entitled to. That is where Rubicon comes in: We work to deliver the river water in a proportional manner, or to deliver the maximum possible amount from the river or from a reservoir. During the drought of 2014–2015, the head reservoirs in the basins, principally in the north, practically went dry, except for a few that were full to 10 or 15 percent of their capacity. Rubicon gates allowed water suppliers to guarantee a more equitable distribution of these scarce resources. What is the alternative to Rubicon gates? There are manual-delivery plate sluice gates, but they are not very precise, and they’re also slow. Rubicon’s gates provide efficient delivery on short notice and are easier to maintain. They can also provide a detailed delivery of water from place to place.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us a bit more about the problems that Rubicon is working to solve.
Joshua Dill: What are the challenges for Rubicon in implementing its technology in Chile?
Gastón Sagredo: In Chile, water rights are privately held—a farmer owns a water right as if it were a property. The farmer may hold 50 liters a second (about 1.75 cubic feet per second) of
Gastón Sagredo: We’re doing a lot of work with the rivers and boards of control, but up to this point, we have not been working in many canals. We want to be working in
Rubicon installations at the Bellavista Canal Association, Coquimbo Region.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF RUBICON CHILE.
12 | IRRIGATION LEADER
many more. The canal associations have fewer resources, so it is difficult for them to implement new technologies. Second, it is challenging to implement top-of-the-line technology like that of Rubicon. Right now, I’d say we are in stage 2 of Rubicon technology here in Chile. Up until this point, Rubicon has worked to implement its technology in deliveries of river water, working with the boards of control and in the management of some canals. The challenge is to implement Rubicon’s advanced Total Channel Control technology, which would allow the integration of a variety of components developed by Rubicon and the precise and timely delivery of irrigation water in response to demand, eliminating channel loss. Joshua Dill: What was your experience with the Irrigation Leader tour? Gastón Sagredo: Among the tour group, there were Rubicon users from the United States. It was interesting to learn how they operated and used Rubicon systems in their own country. The tour was a way for us to gain information as well. On the other hand, I think it was interesting for them to see the style of management used by farmers in Chile under conditions of intense water shortage. The landscape here in Chile is also very different from what the tour group was used to. Here, you can pass from a practically desertlike region into completely green irrigated valleys. There is also much less rainfall
here than they were used to. We have a huge, 5,000meter tall (16,000-foot-tall) mountain range where snow accumulates, and that’s where the rivers come from. I’m interested in building direct relationships and trading visions, both on the institutional or governmental level and on the personal level. Without that, a person could continue working for years without being open to new technology or new experiences. It’s important for these interchanges to happen. It is also important that farmers here in Chile see how people from abroad see things. I think many of them thought it was strange that people came all the way from the United States to see how they did things. But once we explained it a bit, they realized that people in the United States face similar problems: organizational problems, conflicts between users, water scarcity. They were able to realize that their problems were not unique, even though solving them requires a lot of steps. It also showed them that, yes, these problems can be solved. I hope that Kris and the others at Irrigation Leader continue doing this kind of tour. IL
Gastón Sagredo is chief of studies at Rubicon Chile. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Irrigation Leader tour group visits one of Rubicon's installations for the Choapa River Board of Control.
Fighting Prolonged Drought in the Choapa River Valley The Choapa River.
he Choapa River and its Tributaries Joint Board of Control (Junta de Vigilancia del Río Choapa y sus Afluentes, JVRCH) provides water to 4,000 industrial and agricultural users in the Choapa River Valley of north-central Chile. Like most other regions of Chile, the Choapa River Valley is experiencing frequent, prolonged droughts. To face up to this challenge, the JVRCH is improving infrastructure and helping its users become more efficient. In this interview, Ángela Rojas, the general manager of the JVRCH, speaks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about the agency’s history and services and how it is facing up to water shortages.
Joshua Dill: Tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position.
14 | IRRIGATION LEADER
Joshua Dill: Tell us about the JVRCH and its history. Ángela Rojas: The JVRCH is a water users’ organization legally charged with the distribution of water from natural sources. It includes all the canals in its zone, which in turn are organized in water communities. In 1937, a prolonged drought made it necessary to organize the basin’s irrigators so as to distribute the scarce existing water supplies. The organization continued to operate de facto until its legal establishment in 1995. From that date until today, the JVRCH has worked to distribute the water in the basin and has assumed new duties aimed at making water use more efficient, made
necessary by the continually growing demand for water and the falling level of rain- and snowfall each year. The JVRCH works to develop and implement projects oriented toward improving the storage, conveyance, and distribution of water and guaranteeing its quantity and quality. Joshua Dill: How big is the JVRCH’s service area? Ángela Rojas: Today, the JVRCH is composed of 98 water communities along the Choapa River, from the Andes mountain range to its outlet in the Pacific Ocean, delivering a total of 18,250 liters per second (approximately 644 cubic feet per second) of water. The JVRCH has around 4,000 water users, all of whom are equal before the law, independent of the use to which they put their usage rights, whether it be agricultural, industrial, or for consumption. Throughout the basin, agriculture coexists with mining, principally of copper. Agricultural users take more than 85 percent of the water. Among the most widely grown crops are pisco grapes, walnuts, avocados, and citrus fruits.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE JVRCH.
Ángela Rojas: I am an agricultural engineer by profession, and my career has unfolded principally in the area of irrigation and water resources management. I am a native of Salamanca, Chile, and for that reason I have always been interested in working in this valley. The opportunity to work for the JVRCH arose in 2010. My first function here was to design
and implement a program to support farmers in modernizing the irrigation of their crops. In 2014, I assumed the managership of the JVRCH. In this position I, along with the work team, have implemented important technical modernizations that have improved the management of water and the efficiency of its distribution. For example, we have taken over the administration of the Corrales Reservoir, implemented automated gates, and provided legal and organizational support for our users.
JVRCH staff celebrate the inauguration of the agency’s automated gates.
Joshua Dill: What are the JVRCH’s top current issues? Ángela Rojas: Our principal and constant preoccupations are water shortage and the continuous periods of drought we experience. To face them, we have spent years working on projects and programs focused on the efficient and responsible use of water, aimed both at the improved management of water supplies and on the infrastructure necessary for the successful distribution and application of irrigation water. Joshua Dill: What are the most important challenges for farmers in your region? Ángela Rojas: The most important challenge they have to face is water shortage. Every year, they must make great efforts to continue production despite inclement weather, since droughts in our area are continually getting longer and more frequent. This is why, as a board of control, our top challenges include supporting the development of off-farm irrigation via the improvement of canals and supporting individual users in the development and execution of irrigation projects that will allow them to take advantage in a better way of the water they possess. Another relevant challenge is our work on water storage facilities. We already have Corrales Reservoir, which has a capacity of 50 million cubic meters, ownership of which will soon pass from the national government to the JVRCH. In addition, we are working to turn our desire for a reservoir in the mountains at the head of our basin into a reality. We are beginning preliminary studies for that project.
80 percent of canal improvement, technical modernization, and reservoir construction projects, among others. Large projects are financed through Law 1.123 for the execution of medium and large irrigation projects. This was the case with Corrales Reservoir, which was 79.99 percent financed by the national government. Joshua Dill: What other entities does the JVRCH work with? Ángela Rojas: The JVRCH works with agencies of the national governmental by taking part in competitions for the execution of projects and by applying for funds for the implementation of programs to strengthen our users. We work with the Ministry of Public Works, the Directorate General of Water, the Directorate of Hydraulic Works, the National Irrigation Commission, the Regional Corporation for Productive Development, and the Corporation for the Promotion of Production. In addition, we sign working agreements with private entities, including the Los Pelambres mine and the Los Pelambres Mining Foundation. Joshua Dill: What is your vision for the future? Ángela Rojas: Our vision is to become an consolidated and self-sustaining organization, to be autonomous, to have the community recognize us for management that is 100 percent oriented toward our users, to continue working constantly on innovation and adaptation to new technologies, and to always be thinking about providing better service to irrigators in the basin and contributing toward the realization of an efficient and responsible use of our water resources. IL
Joshua Dill: How are irrigation projects in your region financed? Ángela Rojas: Irrigation projects are financed principally by the national government through a variety of instruments, including competitions governed by Irrigation Law 18.450 for the promotion of private investment in irrigation, by means of which the national government finances up to
Ángela Rojas is the manager of the Choapa River and its Tributaries Joint Board of Control. For more about the JVRCH, visit www.jvriochoapa.cl/. IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
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Irrigation in the Elqui Valley
The Puclaro Reservoir.
he Elqui River and Tributaries Board of Control (Junta de Vigilancia del Río Elqui y sus Afluentes, JVRE), administers 121 irrigation canals in Elqui Province in north-central Chile. This productive area produces grapes, citrus fruits, avocados, and vegetables for export around the world. The JVRE’s formal history goes back to the 1930s, but some of its shareholders, like the Bellavista Canal Association, have histories that go back to the early 19th century. In this interview, Dagoberto Bettancourt, the manager and general water distributor of the JVRE, speaks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about the history of irrigation in the Elqui Valley and his agency’s current efforts.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TRAVELHOUND.CL..
Joshua Dill: Tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position. Dagoberto Bettancourt: I am a software engineer and have been working in the Coquimbo region since 1998. In 2000, I had the chance to submit a work proposal to the JVRE, and as a result, it became one of my clients in my practice as an information technology consultant. Starting from that point, I ended up providing the JVRE services in a number of other areas, such as quality management, technology governance, and innovation. In those years, the organization succeeded in developing a focus and establishing its first strategic definitions and guidelines. After this process, I had the opportunity to consult for the new manager of the organization, after a few important internal changes. I submitted a proposal to stay on as assistant manager for administration and was brought on full time in that position
in 2012. Finally, the leadership at the time decided to have me stay in the position of manager and general water distributor, a role I have continued to play until the present day. As a result of all this, I have had the opportunity to get to know the JVRE first as an external management and corporate governance consultant, and then as the chief executive, answering directly to the board of directors and responsible for all operations and administration. During this period, we began to develop a project to change our working concepts and paradigms, incorporating academic research and knowledge with the aim of starting definitively to make our decisions based on data, diagnostics, and objective and concrete facts, so as to define our strategic orientation, vision, and mission within a defined, clear, measurable, and thus evaluable strategic plan. Joshua Dill: Tell us about the JVRE and its history. Dagoberto Bettancourt: The organization has a long history. The construction of the majority of the canals in the Elqui Valley goes back to pre-Columbian times, when the first inhabitants of the area began to undertake irrigation projects, which were later improved by Spanish colonists and by the small farmers who use them today to irrigate their crops. For more than 100 years, the JVRE has been working to conserve, protect, administer, and distribute the water of the Elqui River. Despite the cycles of extreme drought that this region has had to confront, our organizations’ high standard of work has allowed us to guarantee supply for urban potable water and to guarantee that each user receives the water IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
Pisco grape vineyards in the Elqui Valley.
20 | IRRIGATION LEADER
also related to industry and mining. The administration of water is part of our cultural patrimony. Joshua Dill: How big is the JVRE’s service area and what is its population? What crops are grown there? Dagoberto Bettancourt: The JVRE’s service area is defined by its jurisdiction. Elqui Province has about a million hectares, coinciding with the Elqui River basin. The land suitable for irrigated agriculture in this area is on the order of 20,000 hectares. Ninety percent of this area corresponds with the JVRE’s service area, which is made up of 121 canals, 23 collection points, 89 constituted water communities (canals with more than one user), and a number of single users. We have 5,300 end users of all types, including agricultural users, water utility companies, and mining operations. There are five irrigation sectors in this territory. Upstream from the Puclaro Reservoir, the main plantings are deciduous fruit-bearing plants, including table grapes, pisco grapes, and
wine grapes. There are also a lot of citrus trees and avocados. Downstream from Puclaro, you can also find these crops, but vegetables predominate: potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes—crops with two or three rotations during the year. Our surfaces stay irrigated all year, thanks to climatic conditions. Joshua Dill: What are the JVRE’s top issues? Dagoberto Bettancourt: We aim to maintain the rigor that has thus far characterized our central activities: the distribution of water and the process of water planning. We develop our hydrological models using up-to-date statistical information, which allows us to make water availability projections for the upcoming season and for seasons after that. If we want to structure our experience and knowledge, we need to document and manage it. The JVRE always strives to evaluate and improve its performance, identifying opportunities as they arise in order to concretely correct the failures that we have so far detected, which have to do with infrastructure, management, and
PHOTO COURTESY OF FER QUINTANA.
belonging to him or her, as availability allows. The organization was formally established at the time of the construction of the La Laguna Reservoir in the 1930s. To carry that project forward, the national government requested the legal establishment of this users’ organization, so that the users could take responsibility for the operation and administration of the reservoir. Initially, it was called the Coquimbo River Canal Association (Asociación de Canalistas del Río Coquimbo). This developed into the JVRE, which was established in 1993 by a presidential decree. Today, the JVRE exercises jurisdiction over more than 121 canals with a combined length of more than 800 kilometers (500 miles). Its shareholders comprise approximately 5,288 users. The Elqui Valley is a territory with a centuries-long history of water usage. We are on the edges of the Atacama Desert; the change in the appearance of the land is the result of the use of scarce available water for a variety of ends, primarily agricultural in nature but
many farmers have failed to adapt to these changes in time and are offering products that the international market is apparently no longer interested in, a situation that directly affects the competitiveness of the country as a whole. Climatic variability also comes into play: The temperature has risen and precipitation has decreased, which also adds to the need for more investment, not only to further the replacement of plant varieties, but to make our irrigation more efficient and technologically advanced. Another important element is the change in land use. Plots that ought to be used for agriculture are being sold for housing developments or for so-called country houses (parcelas de agrado), thus tremendously complicating water administration. The model is intended for agricultural irrigation, but today it must exist alongside residents who need higher-quality water supplies, meaning that they are demanding water as if they are in the city, even though access to those services is different in rural areas. Joshua Dill: What is your vision for the future?
The Bellavista Canal Association, which forms part of the JVRE, dates back to the first half of the 19th century.
the attempt to influence public policy decisions. We work with the authorities and other stakeholders in the basin in order to face up to the global-level challenge of water availability with flexibility and resilience. The availability of water has changed, and we need to adapt to that. We want to take the next step with respect to management with the stakeholders in the basin, incorporating an integrated water management focus from a technical point of view. We are aiming at the administration of the surface water and groundwater of the basin and its uses, as well as governance issues related to the establishment of collaborative work.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF KRIS POLLY AND THE JVRE.
Joshua Dill: What are the main problems of the farmers in your service area? Dagoberto Bettancourt: Our agricultural sector has gone through a process of change. Until the 1980s, its produce supplied the internal market. From that point onward, a vision emerged of making use of our capacity to export horticultural products to the Northern Hemisphere. The climate of Elqui Province allows it to bring grapes to that market very early in the season, so people started to invest in the region to take full advantage of the potential for exports. The market has continued to develop, generating demand for new varieties of grapes. For a variety of reasons, however,
Dagoberto Bettancourt: I am optimistic. I believe that we have the capacity to turn this adverse situation into an opportunity to resolve to incorporate new technology, shift paradigms, and understand that change is necessary. This means moving on from our base condition to incorporate new processes and procedures and understanding that weâ€™re capable of confronting a fairly complex future. Today, modeling tools show us that despite the difficult climate scenarios we see in the short, medium, and long terms, efficient and integrated management can allow us to be resilient. I believe that we can do that and that we are on a good path to resolve the problems we face on a global level. I value my ability to share experiences with people from other countries who are experiencing the same challenges. It is important to learn from their experiences. The JVRE has been tremendously receptive to academic knowledge and to other parties who have supplied us with information and their knowledge, which has represented a huge learning experience. I believe that the future is complex but undoubtedly represents a tremendous opportunity for learning and growth. I feel certain that we are capable of facing this challenge and continuing to provide for productive and priority uses of water, like drinking supplies and sanitary uses for our population, and maintaining this fertile and productive valley. IL
Dagoberto Bettancourt is the manager and general distributor of water for the Elqui River and Tributaries Board of Control. IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
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Managing Water in Chile: The National Irrigation Commission
he National Irrigation Commission (Comisión Nacional de Riego, CNR) is the government agency charged with supporting irrigated agriculture and funding irrigation projects in the nation of Chile, giving it a role similar to the Bureau of Reclamation in the United States. Having suffered serious droughts for the last decade, Chile is working hard to modernize its storage and conveyance infrastructure and to promote on-farm efficiency. One of the ways the CNR supports these efforts is by providing funding for infrastructure projects. However, the CNR follows an unusual strategy of subsidizing projects only after they are already constructed and functional. In this interview, Federico Errázuriz, executive secretary of the CNR, speaks with Irrigation Leader Editor-in-Chief Kris Polly about the agency he directs, its funding strategy, and the results it has achieved.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CNR.
Kris Polly: Tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position. Federico Errázuriz: My background as an agricultural engineer has allowed me to work in the agricultural and food sector for more than 14 years, both in the public and private sectors. During President Sebastián Piñera’s first term, I took up the challenge of working with the subsecretary of agriculture in managing the ministerial program, after which I was named
subdirector of the Agricultural and Livestock Service (Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero). After the various challenges I took up during my time in government, I continued my career in the private sector, until the opportunity to be the executive secretary of the CNR motivated me to return to the public sector and work in the highly interesting field of water. Kris Polly: Tell us about the CNR. Federico Errázuriz: The CNR is a service of the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture that was created in 1975. Its objective is to guarantee the expansion and improvement of the country’s irrigated land and to be the public agency charged with coordinating and supervising government investment in irrigation in this country. From 1985 onward, its duties have included the administration of Law 18.450, known as the Irrigation Law, which supports the construction and repair of irrigation and drainage facilities and promotes the efficient use of water in agricultural development, which allows for the improvement of farmers’ productivity. The CNR is composed of the Council of Ministers, formed by the ministers of agriculture, economy, budget, public works, and social development, and presided over by the minister of agriculture. IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
Kris Polly: Please give us an overview of irrigation in Chile. Federico Errázuriz: Today we are experiencing a major drought that, in some areas of the country, has lasted for more than 10 years. While some regions have experienced interludes—for example in 2016, which was a rainy year in the Norte Chico region—we are in general experiencing a clear climatic change that cannot be ignored. In this context, we are working hard on two priorities: technical modernization and the accumulation of irrigation water. In Chile, there are 300,000 farms, of which 285,000 are small producers. That is to say that more than 95 percent of the farmers in the country are small farmers; we cannot be indifferent to them. The CNR supports them in two ways: first, by subsidizing projects through Law 18.450, and second, by helping them directly through the Small-Scale Agriculture Program, which tries to reduce some of the barriers that prevent them from accessing the CNR. It is important to emphasize the role of water users’ organizations (organizaciones de usuarios de Agua, OUAs), which in our institutional structure are the organizations that manage water and water infrastructure. With this in mind, I would like to emphasize that strengthening them is a key goal of this administration’s policies. They have shown themselves capable of excellent work, as proven by their performance during the worst years of the drought, in particular in the north of Chile. This work in some cases permitted the operation of the reservoirs and the provision of water during the most critical periods. Kris Polly: What are the most important challenges Chilean farmers face? Federico Errázuriz: Today, the principal challenge the farmers and the OUAs face is efficiently managing the irrigation water used for their properties and crops. Because of climate change and water scarcity, it is necessary to provide them with adequate infrastructure and facilities and with technological innovation that will enable a better use of water, whether in its application to crops or in its administration and management on the organization level. Kris Polly: How does the CNR finance irrigation projects?
26 | IRRIGATION LEADER
Kris Polly: Where does the initial funding for the irrigation projects come from? Federico Errázuriz: The contractors put up the initial funding and have 2 years to complete the project. Once the project is approved and completed, only then will the CNR provide funding. Kris Polly: How does this financing system differ from those of other countries? Federico Errázuriz: One of principal strengths of our system, in terms of making a good use of government resources, is that the subsidies that the CNR gives out only take effect once the project is finished and fully operational. This guarantees that the investment is actually realized. Another interesting thing from the point of view of public policy is that private entities compete on how much they contribute—that is, applicants who request a smaller subsidy score more highly in the competition. Kris Polly: What results has the CNR achieved in recent years? Federico Errázuriz: The agency has given out irrigation subsidies totaling close to US$100 million per year. In 2018 alone, that allowed us to benefit some 30,000 people, support close to 1,500 projects, and modernize the technology on around 10,000 hectares of land. Throughout its history, the CNR has issued irrigation funds of about US$1.2 billion, subsidizing 26,000 projects for around 600,000 beneficiaries and modernizing more than 330,000 hectares. I would like to underline that we work to strengthen the OUAs, which are a fundamental part of the institutional structure of water management in our country. Kris Polly: What is your vision for the future? Federico Errázuriz: My vision is to build a modern agricultural sector, especially in relation to irrigation, with modernized systems on the property level that permit an efficient application of water and with strengthened organizations that use tools like telemetry and remote management. What is most important is that they have the tools that let them professionalize their decisionmaking. IL
Federico Errázuriz is executive secretary of the Chilean National Irrigation Commission. For more information about the CNR, visit cnr.gob.cl.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF KRIS POLLY AND THE CNR.
Federico Errázuriz: The CNR administers Law 18.450, an instrument that, through a system of competitions based on a variety of objective variables indicated by the law, provides subsidies of up to 90 percent of the cost of irrigation and drainage projects. Successful projects must both meet the technical and legal criteria specified in the law and be selected in the competition, and the subsidies are provided only after the projects are constructed. Our 2019 budget is a historic high of 67 billion Chilean pesos (approximately US$100.9 million) which will be distributed through a series of competitions for farmers categorized according to their
socioeconomic status and that of their organizations and for projects in categories like technical modernization or civil works.
The Irrigation Leader tour group visits Federico Errázuriz in Santiago.
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Pisco Grapes: Part of Chile’s Historical, Cultural, and Economic Heritage A variety of Chilean piscos.
P PHOTOS COURTESY OF ASOCIACIÓN DE PRODUCTORES DE PISCO A.G.
isco is a grape-based brandy produced in Chile and Peru that is quickly gaining popularity around the world in cocktails like the pisco sour. While pisco may be new to consumers in the United States, it has a centuries-long history in the mountain valleys of north-central Chile. In this interview, Francisco Hernández, president of the Pisco Producers’ Association (also known as Pisco Chile), tells Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about the history of pisco production in Chile and the cultivation of pisco grapes. Joshua Dill: Tell us about the Pisco Producers’ Association.
Francisco Hernández: Most businesses that produce pisco today form part of the Pisco Producers’ Association (Asociación de Productores de Pisco A.G.), which represents the industry’s interests and promotes the historical, cultural, and economic value of our pisco traditions under the aegis of the Denomination of Origin appellation system. Formed in 2003, the organization continues to strengthen its work in response to the need for an entity of reference that advocates for the interests of businesses in the sector and that can serve as a worthy participant in
the public-private dialogues that arise in the context of the sector’s development. Over the last years, the association has centered its efforts on the diffusion of pisco and awareness of its origins, its characteristics, its production process, and its status as an economic motor across centuries and generations. We pisco producers want to bring our product to the world and have our eyes fixed on the great world markets. In 2018, we had a tremendous international presence, thanks to the support of institutions like ProChile, which has become a great ally in the diffusion of pisco. We have held tastings, master classes, cocktail shows, and other activities in a series of priority markets like Argentina, Brazil, England, Poland, Russia, Spain, and the United States. We are happy with the results we have obtained from these activities, and we hope to continue this strategy this year, taking on more markets and promoting pisco in bars and restaurants. In the countries where we are active, we are always satisfied with the recognition, praise, and awards that pisco receives. A pisco even received the distinction of “Best in Show Unaged White Spirit” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Vinalies Internationales determined that one of our piscos was the best distilled fruit spirit in IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
IRRIGATED CROP the world. Pisco triumphs in competitions like these and as a result is highly valued by bartenders and sommeliers around the world. Joshua Dill: Please give us an overview of the cultivation of pisco grapes in Chile. Francisco Hernández: Its history begins with a big mistake: Looking for a new route to the Indies, Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the New World, sparking an intense interchange of products, cultures, and visions. The Spanish colonizers brought with them European plants and animals in order to be able to guarantee access to their accustomed foods in their life in the New World. Spanish grapevines adapted with surprising rapidity to our fertile soils, producing much more wine than was necessary for the celebration of Mass and the process of evangelization. This is how a flourishing wine-producing industry started up in the Spanish colonies, especially in the Viceroyalties of Peru and the Río de la Plata. In 1549, the Chilean city of La Serena was refounded and the first vineyards were planted in its outskirts, which later extended to the valleys of Copiapó, Huasco, Elqui, Limarí, and Choapa. The unique characteristics of these lands permitted the production of wines of high quality and intense sweetness. But precisely this sweetness posed problems for the transportation of this prized product, since it deteriorated rapidly. As a way to preserve the wine and to reduce the total volume to be transported, producers began to extract the alcohol from the wine. This process, known as distillation, was promoted by the presence of copper and copperwork specialists, known as forgers (fragüeros). They forged the copper stills that are still the soul of pisco. The liquor was stored in fired-clay jugs called piscos, which were created by the indigenous people of an area that is now part of Peru and Chile. Then it traveled far and wide to supply the vast mining areas of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
Francisco Hernández: Pisco inherits a centuries-long tradition of distillation. History and modernity converge in its production, meeting the highest standards of quality, whether it is made by a small boutique distillery or a big business. These standards revolve around two important criteria: the Pisco Denomination of Origin and the raw materials used in its production. The Pisco Denomination of Origin appellation reflects the factors and characteristics that intimately link this distilled spirit with the geography and culture of the transverse valleys of Copiapó, Huasco, Elqui, Limarí, and Choapa. Then there are pisco grapes, which emerged
32 | IRRIGATION LEADER
Joshua Dill: What role does irrigation play in the cultivation of pisco grapes? Francisco Hernández: Irrigation plays a fundamental role, given that we are at the border of the Atacama Desert. Without irrigation, no crops could be grown. Moreover, the development of the pisco grape has led to the implementation of an irrigation system that has also made possible the cultivation of avocados, citrus fruit, and table grapes, among other crops. Joshua Dill: What are the most important challenges grape growers face in Chile? Francisco Hernández: For generations, our profession has had to prevail against adversity and severe conditions, bringing our bravery and resolve to bear against the challenges and obstacles in the path of preserving the traditions and culture of one of Chile’s oldest products. With firmness and optimism, we defend pisco, which is part of the historic, social, cultural, and economic patrimony of all Chileans. Joshua Dill: What are the association’s top issues today? Francisco Hernández: Our mission is to bring together and to represent the whole pisco-producing family in an equitable manner, showing no favoritism to any brand, and strengthening the image and recognition of pisco. On the national level, our work centers around raising awareness of the value of what pisco producers do and of
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ASOCIACIÓN DE PRODUCTORES DE PISCO A.G.
Joshua Dill: How are pisco grapes different from other sorts of grapes?
from the convergence of a variety of grape stocks, which produced new, indigenous varieties in these fertile soils. There are 10,000 hectares of pisco grapes in Chile. The majority are devoted to plantings of Moscatel Rosada, Moscatel de Alejandría, Moscatel de Austria, Torontel, and Pedro Jiménez. There are also other, lesser-used varieties of pisco grapes: Moscatel Temprana, Amarilla, Canelli, Frontignan, Hamburgo, Negra, Orange, and Chasselas Musque Vrai. Grown at the foot of the desert, with cold nights and a lot of sun, these grapes have a high level of sugar. A single bottle of pisco requires approximately 3.5 kilos of pisco grapes, and months of work, rest, and dedication from approximately 3,000 farmers. That means that each bottle of pisco is the fruit of thousands of small- and medium-scale farmers. The pisco industry maintains strict standards of quality delineated by the Decree in Force of Law 181 of 1931. This decree granted pisco its Denomination of Origin, the second oldest in the world and the first in the Americas. This is how our pisco, its production process, its geographical specifications, and especially its name are protected by law.
Pisco grapes under cultivation in the arid transverse valleys of Chile.
pisco’s place as part of the historic, social, cultural, and economic patrimony of all Chileans. On the international level, we are pursuing the mission of positioning Chilean pisco as a premium product and experience in primary markets. Our objectives revolve around protecting and promoting of the Pisco Denomination of Origin at the national and international levels and raising awareness of the history and unique characteristics of the product. We support research, technological development, and innovation to strengthen the pisco industry’s value chain and work for the improvement and the suitability of the regulatory framework for the development and sustainability of the industry.
Francisco Hernández: The pisco industry has had an important boost in the last few years, as evidenced by the great number of new brands that have entered the market since 2010. These new brands seek to provide a product of the highest quality, with a production process that strictly observes the regulations contained in the Pisco Denomination of Origin of 1931, but that also seeks to satisfy new consumers and the requirements of new trends in mixology. IL
Francisco Hernández is president of the Pisco Producers’ Association. For more information, visit piscochile.com.
Joshua Dill: What is your vision for the future? IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
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The Fort Shaw Irrigation District IRRIGATION DISTRICT MANAGER Salary: Dependent upon skill DESCRIPTION: + The Fort Shaw Irrigation District is looking for an energetic individual to manage a 13,000-acre irrigation project. QUALIFICATIONS: + Have knowledge with water distribution and supervision. + If not already skilled, ability to learn quickly on financial record keeping.
E-MAIL: Alan Rollo at email@example.com for additional information. IRRIGATIONLEADERMAGAZINE.COM
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