27 September 2013 has been earmarked by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as “World Tourism Day 2013”. Various tweets throughout the day have highlighted responsible water usage around the world.
United Nations (@UN) September 27, 2013
The Elqui River in north-central Chile begins in the mountains of the lower Andes, and flows west to the Pacific along the southern edge of the Atacama desert through the towns of Vicuña and La Serena. The average annual total rainfall in La Serena is 10 to 13 cm (4 to 5 inches), less than one-tenth of the total for Vancouver, Canada.
The Elqui was dammed by 1999 to control water usage by farms in the lower valley and by pisco vinyards in the upper valley; however, construction of the dam displaced people in small low-lying towns on both sides of the river. Behind the dam in the Embalse or reservoir Puclaro (photo above), the water level has declined with lower annual snowfall in the mountains above and higher usage by farms and the increasing population below. The price for water continues to rise due to competition from mines, farms, and the growing population. Numerous research visits and five years living in La Serena emphasized the contrast of the importance of water to people’s lives in the region with the dominant presence of the neighbouring Atacama.