Release Date: March 8, 2004
Media Contact: Jim Duggleby
Phone: (306) 585-5439
Fax: (306) 585-4997
U of R grant funds sustainable water supply work in Chile
Researchers from the University of Regina and their counterparts at University of La Serena (ULS) in Chile have been granted $997,170 under Canadian International Development Agency's (CIDA's) University Partnership, Co-operation and Development program, to study the challenge of a secure water supply for poor rural communities in Coquimbo, a dryland region of Chile south of the Atacama Desert.

The U of R's co-directors for the five-year project are David Gauthier (Canadian Plains Research Centre/Department of Geography) and Harry Diaz (Department of Sociology & Social Studies). The co-directors at the University of La Serena are Sonia Salas (Psychology) and Hector Luis Morales (Administration/Tourism). 

In addition to the co-directors, two researchers from the U of R and two from ULS will serve as co-leaders of program activities. David Sauchyn (Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative /Geography) will co-lead climate change and desertification training with Melitta Fiebig (Mathematics, ULS). Professor Wendee Kubik (Women's Studies) will co-lead gender equity training with Salas. Jorge Cepeda-Pizarro (Ecology and Zoology, ULS) will co-lead environmental studies training with Gauthier. Hector Luis Morales (ULS) will co-lead community leadership and assessment training with Diaz.

Working with their ULS colleagues, the U of R researchers will deliver education and training programs that improve the ability of rural women, non-government organizations and government agencies to address sustainable water management issues for rural communities affected by desertification and the impacts of climate change. 

While programs exist in the region to address various water management issues, they are not integrated and are not focused on the needs of the poorest communities, which suffer the greatest hardships in relation to water accessibility, affordability and availability. Serious deficiencies in the capacity of rural communities to deal with various water management issues and the impacts of climate change and desertification are a result of unco-ordinated government policies and programs that fail to achieve local community empowerment, inadequate community stakeholder involvement in setting local and regional water management priorities, lack of education and training for women regarding water management, and failure to communicate best practices among communities in poor rural communities. 

By focusing its training and outreach efforts on the three poorest municipalities in the Coquimbo Region, the project will result in improved security of water, enhanced water quality, increased access to water for the poorest rural communities in the region and significantly enhanced leadership capacity among rural women for water management. The project team is partnering with numerous federal, regional and municipal government agencies, and non-government organizations in Chile and will be working with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) and the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC) in Canada in developing and delivering training programs. Administrative support for the project will be provided through the Canadian Plains Research Center at the U of R.

This project builds upon a very successful previous CIDA project led by Gauthier and Diaz from 1998 to 2003 that focused on building university capacity in Chile to address sustainable development.

For further information contact Dave Gauthier at 585-4758, or Harry Diaz at 585-4151.