Camila Teutsch Barros (Chile)
Patagua Water Consultancy, Chile
Master of Integrated Water Management
2013/14 IWC Alumni Ambassador (Latin America)
Camila studied Engineering of Natural Resources at the University of Chile before volunteering for a year in the Dominican Republic for a local NGO, FUNDASEP.
Back in Chile, she worked at the Regional Water Directorate of Aysen, piloting the National Strategy of Integrated River Basin Management at the Baker River Basin.
"Although my job at FUNDASEP was focused on environmental issues, particularly land degradation, my attention was inevitably brought to water.
Lack of safe drinking water supplies and sanitation facilities is a huge issue in the Dominican Republic, and despite there being several international organisations working on this, things don’t seem to be changing much.
Facing so many challenges with such limited resources was frustrating at some points, but working hand in hand with local communities at the San Juan River Basin was definitely one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had.
When I got back to Chile, I started working at the Regional Water Directorate of Aysen, in Patagonia, where I was in charge of piloting the National Strategy of Integrated River Basin Management at the Baker River Basin. It soon became obvious that there was no real political will to make any serious change or contribution towards integrated water management, but I still value the experience.
Within a year and half we were able to form a River Basin Organisation and develop a participatory action plan. Sadly, the project was terminated when the new government was elected, so the plan never got to be implemented.
Why did you choose that professional path?
I wanted to work for social and environmental sustainability.
I wanted to contribute towards building a better world.
Being aware of the many opportunities and privileges I had had, and knowing how rare that was in Chile and in many parts of the world, I wanted to give something back. I wanted to work for social and environmental sustainability. I wanted to contribute towards building a better world – and I still do!What attracted you to the MIWM?
Working on the integrated river basin management project reinforced my interest in focusing my career on water, so I started looking for water-related masters programs abroad.
I came across the MIWM and it was love at first sight! I felt the program covered all the subjects I was interested in, and I loved that it was developed in an international environment.
I also liked the fact that it took place in an English-speaking country, and that it allowed students to go wherever they wanted to work on their third semester projects.
The Chilean Government granted me an amazing scholarship, for which I’m incredibly grateful.
What were the strong points of the program in your opinion?
Also, having classmates from all around the world was simply amazing. Just talking to them, even outside the classroom, was a great learning experience. I loved that we were a fairly small group, which I think made it easier for everyone to participate and get involved. Field trips were great too!Was studying in Australia what you expected it to be?
Yes! I loved living and studying in Australia. I specially appreciated its multicultural environment and Brisbane’s laid-back lifestyle. But as much as enjoyed the experience, I always knew I wanted to come to Chile after I finished my studies. This is home, and there’s so much to get done!Where are you working in now?
At the moment I’m the Executive Director in Patagua, a small water consultancy firm that my husband and I started a year and a half ago. So far it’s been a really fun and challenging experience! We had both done some independent consultancy work in the past, but starting our own business has been a whole different story. There is always so much to take care of!
Luckily for us, everything has worked out quite smoothly since the very beginning. We won a tender for a contract with the National Water Directorate only a month after we started working, which gave us financial stability during the first year. We renewed that contract this year too, which is great. The project has to do with water rights in Patagonia, a gorgeous region in our country which is facing several water issues, including controversial dam projects and lack of access to water resources by local communities.
Chile has an extremely liberal legislation regarding water, which allows water rights to be granted perpetually and for free. In Patagonia in particular, where water resources are most abundant, lots of water rights were granted to a few big companies in the 80s, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. These companies are not even using the water, but they own it.
The aim of the project is to identify which water rights are actually being used and which aren’t, so there’s a lot of field work involved. Then, the owners of unused water rights need to either pay a fine for hoarding the water, or give up their rights so that the water can be used by somebody else.
We’ve also being doing some smaller consultancies involving hydrological studies and water rights advisory for the local water company and for aquaculture companies in Los Lagos district. Besides that, we’re starting an NGO for the sustainable development of the Llanquihue basin, where we live in. Now that all the paperwork is almost done, we’re really enjoying the process of strategic planning!"