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Water in La Rioja, a commodity or a resource for life? The water crisis

Water in La Rioja, a commodity or a resource for life? The water crisis

By Jorge Eduardo Romero

In the coming decades, competition for water will intensify. Success would act by improving public health, education, reducing poverty, and as a source of economic development.


The 2006 UNDP report on Human Development took water as a priority theme with the title "Beyond Scarcity. Power, Poverty and the World Water Crisis". Where it defines a series of concepts about the resource and its relationship with Human Development.

Overcoming the crisis of water and sanitation is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Success would act by improving public health, education, reducing poverty, and as a source of economic development.

In the coming decades, competition for water will intensify, population growth, its concentration in urban areas, industrial development, agricultural, livestock and mining needs are increasing the demand for a finite resource. Determining that those who have less possibilities and influence, lose their rights before more powerful groups or friends of power. The deprivation of access to water, like hunger, is a silent crisis experienced by the most unprotected populations.

The rivalry for water as a production resource is intensifying, water-dependent ecological systems are collapsing, affected by declining river flows, large-scale depletion of groundwater, changes in the hydrological cycle, intensive melting of glaciers, desertification and the decrease in vegetation cover due to deforestation.

United Nations Secretary Ban Kimoon states that "Faced with the threat of climate change and the increasing pressure exerted on the world's freshwater resources, the challenge of water governance in the 21st century may become one of the most difficult to face. face in the history of mankind ".

The water in La Rioja

The tragic history of our Province is related to the struggle for the seizure of water, the betrayal of the tinkunaco, the elimination of the original populations, the defeat of Felipe Várela in the Pozo de Vargas, the elimination of rural populations and their concentration in urban centers as environmental refugees from the appropriation of the resource by the most powerful or privileged groups by power. And the constant delivery or management of this resource as a commodity, determine that the water crisis is a constant due to the lack of State Policies.

The study of natural resources is carried out by geological sciences, with the contribution of basic and applied sciences, in the case of water due to its importance as a life supporter, political, legal, social and economic sciences also intervene, considering it within international law as an issue that can affect world security.

The presence of surface and underground water is determined by the prevailing climate in the region, which defines the contributions from rainfall in the form of rain, dew, snow and water courses or infiltrations from external contributions.


In his book, "La Rioja, Crossroads of Aridity and Hope", Dr. Ramón José Díaz makes a compilation of the main studies and an analysis of the climatic conditions of the Province, highlighting as one of the factors to take into account, the permanent water deficit that determines the aridity condition for the region. Included in the great region "Diagonal Árida", where a large part of the usable water comes from springs and from the exploitation of underground water.

The contribution to groundwater was made during millions of years and continues to accumulate in the aquifers, from the recharge especially in the mountain ranges that cross the territory (Sierra de Las Minas, Ulapes, Chepes, Malanzan, Los Llanos, Velasco, Famatina, Precordillera, Cordillera, etc.). Determining the Watersheds, where it is important to consider the "Water Balance" related to the amount of water supplied and extracted, both by human activity, vegetation, evaporation, and retained.

This water balance in our region is negative due to its physical and environmental characteristics, due to overexploitation and uncontrolled and predatory management of large subsidized enterprises.

Water as a commodity

In 2002 Jorge Rabinovich and Filemon Torres, through ECLAC, published "The characterization of development sustainability syndromes. The case of Argentina." The notion of "Sustainability Syndrome" applied in 1997 by Cassel-Gintz and Petschel - Held, characterize dangerous and risky developments of civilization-nature interaction and represent a baseline to measure and indicate "non-sustainability".

One of the defined syndromes was the so-called "Ratchet" (locking of a gear that prevents it from turning back) and is used "to reflect those myopic policies in which each political decision makes it more difficult to reverse a process that progressively becomes evident as not sustainable. " This is one of the syndromes that has the most negative impact on Natural Resources, causing structural poverty, desertification, environmental degradation and contamination, due to lack of application of the laws and the null control due to the incapacity or collusion of those in charge of apply them.

In our Province we can add a recurring syndrome in electoral times, which is "the fable syndrome" where announcements of policies are made that are never specified or carried out for the moment or in the media, mixing the urgencies and needs of the people, with solutions that are "bread for today and hunger for tomorrow" or offering water as if we had plenty of it, which is the case with mining companies and even wanting to deliver the Salado river from the mountain range to Chilean farms. Continuing with the contamination and deterioration of the water quality, allowing the exploitations in the aquifer recharge zones, the null or partial treatment of sewage and industrial waste.

From the "fable of the federal canal" to the "drilling that is contracted and built for the photo" or the policy of changing pumps, when the location and types of filters that are the heart of the well are not controlled. You have to look at the covers of the newspaper El Independiente, the number of advertisements made and the times that great achievements were published, with celebrations, banquets and Presidential accompaniment or repeated inaugurations, which later fed the reality of the fables. (The road to Chile more than a fable became a black hole)

Continuing with the planning of large ventures, or delivery of "millions" (one has already lost count) of plants and seeds for the productive transformation of the Llanos and Oasis of the Province, without taking into account the quantity and quality of the water resource . We continue with "the fable of La Rioja has a future" believing that with virtual ventures, the most expensive drilling in the world or delays, we solve the productivity problem, which is surely a business for a few, while the exodus of residents continues to increase rural, to receive the crumbs of the government in the big cities. Originating environmental refugees and the abandonment of the interior peoples.

In every action of the human being there is always a new dawn and it is necessary to face and try to transform crises into opportunities.

We are facing the bicentennial of the May revolution, and in six years that of July 9, which can mobilize us to solve the structural problems created by the physical environment and the wrong policies.

Climate change is a reality that is going to affect us all with problems in health, education, security and food. For this, state policies must be applied, with mitigation strategies that are actions that anticipate, reduce or slow down the changes, and adaptation strategies that are actions that counteract the adverse consequences of the changes. Mitigation strategies should be aimed at reducing the vulnerability of ecosystems, while adaptation strategies should be aimed at increasing the resilience of ecological and human systems to changes in the environment.

And the most important thing is to recreate the culture of work, and the undertakings according to the reality of water resources, so that water is no longer a commodity that those who have the most can have, to become a resource for life.

Jorge Eduardo Romero - Geologist Mat. 1414 - Aimogasta - La Rioja - Argentina


Video: MGT111Lecture40 (September 2021).