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Santiago (Sun., 3/8/09) – Water
by Tom Bernitt -- March 9th, 2009

Santiago and its water sources

Sunday should have been a day of rest but the shopaholics outnumbered those of us more frugal and culturally inclined and thus won the day.  But in-between shopping there was plenty of sightseeing and walking.  Did I mention the walking?  (There are certain folks cut out to be group leaders and others that just walk you in circles).

With walking and subways able to cover a wide swath of Santiago we certainly made a dent.  From the main square of Santiago and its 18th century church to the Pre-Columbian Museum (which oddly enough had lots of Mayan artifacts) to the National Museum of Fine Arts.  It was very much a full day (and I write this before dinner tonight which has its own dramatic potential if it comes close to last night’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride experience).

Yet with all this tourism weighing heavily upon my soul, an ecological moment still transpired.  As Bob and Mary Pat and I were crossing a bridge over the Mapacho River, I was struck by the rapid water below me.  It had to be running at least 10 knots and that was probably an underestimation by a factor of 2.  And since I had Sensei Bob right at hand I wanted to know why in March the snowmelt still was producing such a flow of water.  March is the August of Chile and California would love to have snowmelt deep into August.  Our 35% reservoirs would be overflowing at this point and there would be no talk of a 20% mandatory water rationing edict.  The answer (courtesy of Bob) was that at 16,000 feet, the Andes provided a much longer period of snowmelt and that without it, countries like Chile which only receives about 20 inches of rain a year would blow away.  However, what if this amount of water is an anomaly?  What if Chile doesn’t receive water at this rate typically into March?  What if global warming is affecting their water supply in a similar fashion to California, another Mediterranean climate?

Inquiring minds want to know…

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