Water Governance, Desertification and Climate Change in the Araucania Region of Chile

The Araucania region is a vast territory in southern Chile traditionally inhabited by indigenous Mapuche communities. In recent decades, large-scale timber plantations and medium-scale intensive farming have replaced native forest, reducing the availability of water and making the region a hotspot of desertification.

There is now strong competition for water in the area among forestry companies, settler farmers, hydro-electricic providers, processing industries, and indigenous Mapuche farming communities shifting toward eco-tourism and other livelihoods. With the situation exacerbated by climate change, conflicts over water continue to escalate.

By developing scenarios of the expected impact of climate change and water demand in Araucania, this project aims to inform discussion among stakeholders seeking effective ways to manage and reduce conflicts over water. Research will be conducted by a multidisciplinary team from community organizations and six collaborating Chilean institutions, and will include ecologists, agronomists, forest managers, hydrologists, geographers, social scientists, and lawyers specialized in indigenous law and rights. The project will also involve the Chilean national environmental agency and the forestry regulator, and collaborate with similar desertification initiatives.

The research team will first map water use in selected areas of the region and examine how water rights are assigned during periods of water scarcity. Remote sensing techniques will be used to generate high-resolution land cover maps. Watershed hydrological balances will be produced, including assessments of current water use for crops and other sectors. A proposal for sustainable water resource management in the watershed will be developed in partnership with the diverse water users. The researchers will also prepare a policy brief and articles for peer-reviewed publications as well as an e-book.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Sunday, July 1, 2012

End Date

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


30 months

IDRC Officer

Ubal Giordano, Walter


Chile, South America, North and Central America


Climate Change

Project Leader

Max Felipe Thomet Isla

Project Leader

Rene Montalba Navarro


Centro de Educación y Tecnología para el Desarrollo del Sur

Institution Country


Institution Website