Water Code Reform
In March 2011, a draft bill was introduced through a parliamentary motion, initiating the discussion of a comprehensive revision of the Water Code.
The project has undergone significant changes during its processing, through amendments presented in 2014 and 2017 by the government of Michelle Bachelet and in 2019, 2020 and 2021 by the government of Sebastián Piñera, and successive changes to its legislative priority.
On January 11, 2022, the House of Representatives approved the Bill and sent it to the Senate, who approved it on January 12, 2022. The Bill was sent to the Constitutional Court for its constitutionality control. The Constitutional Court ruled on March 15, 2022, that the Reform was in conformity with the Constitution, with the exception of one article that was deleted from the Bill. The Reform was enacted on March 26, 2022. Finally, the Reform did entry into force with its publication on April 6, 2022, in the Official Gazette.
The main modifications are to articles five and six. In article five, a change is proposed that would reinforce the nature of water as a public good and that its domain and use belong to all Chileans, giving it a public interest character to safeguard human consumption and sanitation, ecosystem preservation, water availability and others.
Another modification to this article would allow the State to establish water reserves available for subsistence and ecosystem preservation functions.
While in article six, the proposed change would establish that the right to use water will be granted through temporary concessions, in addition to allowing its renewal only if the availability and sustainability requirements of the supply source are met.
The project, in general, seeks to: Modify the concept of water use rights, in order to give them a temporary nature; prioritize human consumption over other uses, recognize the constitution of rights for non-extractive uses such as environmental conservation and tourism, restrict the use of certain water use rights in situations of scarcity; reform the current regulation of mining waters, establish causes of extinction and expiration; facilitate intervention in hydrological areas by the State, provide the General Water Directorate with new oversight powers, simplify and streamline administrative procedures related to water rights and auctions; reform the system of payment of patent for non-use, eliminate judicial intervention in regularization procedures by Article 2 Transitory; and to file the competence to process regularization procedures by Article 5 Transitory in the General Water Directorate, without prejudice to the pertinent consultations to the Agricultural and Livestock Service.
Given the complexity of the reform to the Water Code, we will report and analyze the content of the bill and its processing on this website.