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Legal and Institutional Framework of Water Resources

Part of the Global Issues in Water Policy book series (GLOB,volume 21)

Abstract

The water sector in Chile underwent major changes as a result of decentralization and market reforms. The Water Code of 1981 is the main regulation governing terrestrial water use and water rights (WR) in Chile. Water is national property for public use. However, the Water Code grants permanent and transferable WR to individuals in order to achieve an efficient allocation of water through market transactions of water rights. Once water rights have been granted, they fall under the jurisdiction of private civil law, rather than administrative law. This chapter provides an overview of legal water regime in Chile, based on the review of six central topics: normative framework; regulatory model and legal nature of waters; origin of water rights; water management and administration; groundwater regime; and, finally, the most common conflicts that occur in the sector. On this basis, and considering legal and jurisprudential elements, we identify the defining features of Chile’s Water Law, which mixes powers of a centralized State Administration, market tools and water user organizations.

Keywords

  • Chile
  • Water code
  • Conflicts
  • Water law
  • Water institutionality
  • Water rights

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Fig. 5.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    This section lists the main regulatory bodies on water in Chile. Notwithstanding, it should be noted that there are additional legal and regulatory regulations , As is, for example, the Supreme Decree N° 203 of 2014, establishing rules on exploration and exploitation of groundwater , to which reference will be made later in this chapter.

  2. 2.

    From a legal point of view.

  3. 3.

    WR as a “real administrative right” is (i) a subjective public right, to the extent that it is a clear legal power recognized to its owner; (ii) a real right, insofar as it is exercised over a public good, such as waters, and has erga omnes efficacy; and, (iii) has an administrative nature, since it is the State, through the Dirección General de Aguas (DGA. General Water Directorate) , that grants the WR.

  4. 4.

    For example: Reyes Barraza, Pablo and Aguas Andinas S.A (2011): Court of Appeals of San Miguel, Rol 101-2011, October 14, 2011; Larraín Amaya, Luis and Valenzuela Díaz, Mario (2014): Court of Appeals of San Miguel, Rol 252-2014, November 11, 2014; Dougnac Cordero, Vivianne and Comité de Administración del Condominio Las Vertientes de Zapata (2015): Court of Appeals of San Miguel, Rol 53-2015, March 26, 2015; Montes Arancibia, Alberto and Parcelación Piedra Molino (2015): Court of Appeals of San Miguel, Rol 1106–2015, December 11, 2015; and, Reyes Zapata, Jorge (2016): Court of Appeals of San Miguel, Rol 2052–2015, April 14, 2016.

  5. 5.

    More background can be found in Bulletins N° 6.124-09, 6.141-09, 6.254-09, 6.697-07, 7.108-07, 8.355-07, 9.321-12, 10.496-07 and 10.497-07 whose unified status can be seen in http://www.senado.cl/appsenado/templates/tramitacion/index.php

  6. 6.

    The actual WC reform , currently in Second constitutional process (Senate), is processed under Bulletin N° 7.543-12, registered in 2011. Its status can be seen in http://www.senado.cl/appsenado/templates/tramitacion/index.php

  7. 7.

    The DGA can declare an aquifer under restriction if there is a risk of negative impacts of new WR on existing WRs.

  8. 8.

    The DGA can declare an aquifer under prohibition if there is clear evidence of a risk of resource depletion due to over extraction.

  9. 9.

    The DGA has the authority to provisionally grant groundwater rights in those areas that have been declared under restriction. The effects of these provisional WR on other groundwater use rights holders are studied. Should negative impacts be identified in these areas, these provisional WR are annulled by the DGA ; i.e. groundwater may no longer be extracted with these WR . However, if no effects are identified after 5 years of water extraction, these provisional WR can become definite WR.

  10. 10.

    From a legal point of view.

  11. 11.

    The use of Chile’s coastline is responsibility of the Ministry of National Defense (MINDEF) –especially the Deputy Ministry of Navy- whose mandate is to control and supervise the entire coast and territorial sea.

  12. 12.

    Bulletin N° 7.543–12, registered in 2011 (http://www.senado.cl/appsenado/templates/tramitacion/index.php

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Vergara, A., Rivera, D. (2018). Legal and Institutional Framework of Water Resources. In: Donoso, G. (eds) Water Policy in Chile. Global Issues in Water Policy, vol 21. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-76702-4_5

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