Climate change adaptation in a highly urbanized snowmelt dominated basin in Central Chile

@ATREE auditorium at 3.45 pm on 1st January 2016

The Maipo river basin holds 40% of Chile’s total population and produces almost half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The basin is located in the semiarid and snowmelt dominated central region of the country and, aside from the typical pressures of growth in developing country basins, the Maipo river basin faces climate change impacts associated with a reduction in total runoff and changes in its seasonality. Surface water is the main water source for human settlements, natural ecosystems, and economic activities including agriculture, mining and hydropower production. In 2012 a research project, called MAPA (Maipo Plan de Adaptacion), began with the objective of articulating a climate variability and climate change adaptation plan for the Maipo river basin. The project engaged at the beginning a group of relevant water and land use stakeholders which allowed for a good representation of critical aspects of an adaptation plan such as the definition of objectives and performance indicators, future land use scenarios, modeling of the different components of the system and design of adaptation strategies. The presentation will highlight the main results of the research project with a special focus on the upper catchments of the basin. These results include the assessment of impacts associated with future climate and land use scenarios on key components of the hydrologic cycle including snowmelt and glacier contribution to runoff and subsequent impacts on water availability for the operation of hydropower facilities, satisfaction of instream (recreation and aquatic ecosystem) uses and provision of water for the city of Santiago (7 million people) and to irrigate more than 100,000 hectares of high value crops. The integrative approach followed in this project including different perspectives on the use of water in the basin provides a good opportunity to test the varying degree of impacts that could be associated with a given future scenario and also understand the challenges and opportunities that exist in the process of designing and implementing adaptation strategies.

Sebastian is an SEI Associate based in Santiago, Chile where he performs as Executive Director of the Centro de Cambio Global of the Pontificia Universidad Catolina. His areas of research as a water resources engineer are focused on integrated water resources management at the basin level. In recent years he has studied the effects of climate change on water resources in California and other regional settings in Central and South America. The emphasis of his recent work has been the exploration of adaptation strategies to these impacts. Sebastian received in 2004 a Master in Public Policy and a Master in Science in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. In 2007 he received a PhD in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the same university. Prior to his studies in United States, he worked on a wide range of environment-related projects.