Beyond scarcity and its management: Sociocultural dimensions of the water crisis in the Atacama Desert

Raphael Cantillana, Irene Iniesta-arandia

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The depletion of freshwater sources by indiscriminate industrial actions is one of the direct causes of the current water crisis. One of the emblematic cases of this problem is the Atacama Desert, a unique hyper-arid zone in which an extensive copper industry depletes its scarce freshwater reserves. This territory, occupied for millennia by indigenous groups, is experiencing a water crisis that threatens its very subsistence. This paper uses the ethnographic method and the Water Justice framework to approach the everyday and often invisible issues of this crisis within the Mamiña community. This Quechua community holds an ambivalent position in front of the copper mine project because of its control of the water rights, the economic interests of some of their members, and the role of the Aymara minority. We suggest that researchers in this field pay more attention to the communities’ internal diversity and its relations with the copper industry to understand how the water crisis is detached from its biophysical conceptions to be socioculturally constructed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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