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Georgetown University

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


The World Health Organization (WHO) affirms that clean drinking water is an essential resource and deems it a basic human right. The principle objective of this investigation is to study the quality and accessibility of drinking water in rural Chile, in the northern most region, XV Arica – Parinacota. Specific objectives include the investigation of the functioning and management of water services, determining the percentages of populations who do not have access to water services, and conducting analyses of the physical-chemical and bacteriological content of the water. The study was completed through interviews, observation, and visits to water systems and the government laboratory.

With respect to the accessibility of drinking water, the results show that of the 19 systems of rural potable water (APR), 3 serve the entire intended population. The systems that fail to supply water to the largest portion of the community leave between 200 and 400 people without safe drinking water. Additionally, the water systems were categorized in three groups, according to the functional status and operating conditions of each. The systems in the first group were those that function and were found to be in good conditions; this group included 36 percent of the systems. The second group, with 28 percent, included the systems that function but did not comply with the requirements of the Minister of Health. The systems in the third group, 36 percent, did not function. The results relating to the water quality show that there were elevated concentrations of specific chemical substances in the rural water systems including: arsenic, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, nitrates, nitrites, and sulphates. Also, high concentrations of total bacterial colonies were identified in the water systems of Putre, the most rural district at the base of the Andes mountain range.

The conclusions drawn from the study suggest a strong correlation between the quality of the water system and the location and population size of the town. The most rural towns, with populations of fewer than 100 people, had water systems from categories 2 and 3. These systems also exhibited the worst water quality, with respect to the chemical and bacterial content.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Inequality and Stratification | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Water Resource Management