A conversation with Pablo Andres: fighting for Chile’s water

“In my country, people live their lives quietly on their own. People don’t share their problems, and so they don’t share solutions. People are not interested in improving if it doesn’t benefit them. But it should be about how improving benefits all, because we don’t live alone. That applies to everything: water management, scarcity and the rest.”

Pablo’s career as a lawyer in his home country of Chile has seen him work in private consultancies; as a liaison for policy advisors, engineers and geologists; and as a university professor. He is passionate about increasing his water management knowledge, so he can educate others and influence those with power within the water sector.

“In my country, in Chile, water is totally [controlled by the] private sector. The government doesn’t have power to apply limits on water. Water regulations are about the economy and about the free market. It [water policy] does not include the social aspect, or the environmental aspect, and it definitely does not include the human aspect.”

A vocal proponent for environmental change, Pablo has written extensively about Chile’s unbalanced water regulations and governance. He personally holds great concerns about his country’s lack of water recycling or water reclaiming; he believes it could be beneficial to preventing further water scarcity. Chile is currently in the grips of the worst drought in 60 years.

“We generate [talk] a lot about the reuse of water, but it is not totally applied. Chile needs to improve on this.”

But Pablo believes shifting the government to improve reclamation infrastructure will be difficult. He says the Chilean government is a representative democratic republic, a political system where the President is both head of state and of the government, and of a formal multi-party system. He believes that there is a lack of interest by the government for change.

“We have three main parts to our government, but the power is to the right side and they don’t want to change. Some people are happy with the way things are, but they are the minority.”

While Pablo’s concerns remain strong, the Chilean government has moved to tackle water shortages and drought, with President Sebastian Pinera recently creating a working group of government agencies, academics and industry players to look at ways to manage water resources more effectively. The President has also pledged $58M in tapping more water sources and trucking water into rural areas.

While government action is a step in the right direction, Pablo believes it’s up to the people like him to bring a fresh perspective to his country and to create unprejudiced policies for water use. It’s for this reason that Pablo enrolled in the International WaterCentre’s Master of Integrated Water Management program, to learn how Australia manages water in the face of scarcity.

Thinking about his career after the Master’s program, he says: “The most important thing about being a lawyer is not the law, it’s about [knowing] how can you make a solution for the people who need it and about how we can work together to find a solution. My aim is to learn more about the processes of water [management], so this can generate another view for when I am working for policy advisors in Chile.”