Campaign launched to declare Puelo River a water reserve

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Photo: Andres AmengualPhoto: Andres Amengual


Puelo Patagonia, press release, July 20, 2021 - With a massive call to support the request to legally declare the Puelo River a water reserve, the community of Puelo and Cochamó launched today the campaign #PueloReservadeAgua (#PueloWaterReserve). This initiative seeks to collect 40,000 signatures via the website, in order to send a letter to President Sebastián Piñera, asking him to give urgency to the neighbors' request to reserve the Puelo River for nature conservation and local development.

Protecting the Puelo River is urgent in the face of the global climate crisis and the growing drought scenario that has begun to affect the area's inhabitants and biodiversity. This year three provinces in Chile's Los Lagos Region were declared in water scarcity: Osorno, Chiloé and Llanquihue. The Puelo River is located in the commune (equivalent to a county in the U.S.) of Cochamó.

Another threat facing the Puelo River basin is privatization: a large part of its river flow is in private hands, which makes it possible to commercialize its waters. In this regard, large exploitation rights are granted according to availability and without distinguishing the productive vocation of the territory or the interest of its inhabitants. This allows the granting, practically in perpetuity, of water flows for speculative purposes to companies or private individuals with no connection to the territory.


Photo: Niccolo CantaruttiPhoto: Niccolo Cantarutti 


Unfortunately, only 12 of the country's 1,251 rivers have a flow reserve for conservation. That is to say, barely 1% of the rivers in Chile are "protected" through the country's so-called "Reserva de Caudales" (Flow Reserves). Promoting this declaration for the Puelo River is a first step to ensure that in the future a law is developed that comprehensively conserves the ecosystems of the basin and its surrounding communities.

What is a water reserve? 

Article 147 of the Chilean water code establishes that the president of Chile can declare, by decree, a water flow reserve. This can occur when there is a need to supply the local population or also due to exceptional circumstances of the place and or if it is considered in the national interest.

The water reserve recognizes the ecological and social value of certain water flows and significantly limits the granting of water use rights, protecting it from industries that want to take advantage of its special conditions, such as mining projects and hydroelectric plants.

In 2019, the community of Puelo and Cochamó also sent a letter to Chile's president requesting the designation of a water reserve for the Puelo River, a petition that has not yet been answered. Today, we need 40,000 signatures to support the community's new initiative. Join us at and together let's change the course of the Puelo River.