Potential impacts of climate change on an aquifer in the arid Altiplano, northern Chile: The case of the protected wetlands of the Salar del Huasco basin

Blin, Nicole; Hausner, Mark; Leray, Sarah; Lowry, Christopher; Suarez, Francisco

Keywords: climate change, groundwater recharge, chilean altiplano, statistical downscaling, arid regions, Groundwater modeling


Study region: The Salar del Huasco is an undeveloped basin in the arid Chilean Altiplano. Study focus: This study aims to investigate potential impacts of climate change on the aquifer of the Salar del Huasco basin to better manage groundwater resources in the Chilean Altiplano. With this purpose, precipitation and temperature projections from multiple general circulation models were statistically downscaled using the hybrid delta approach to produce ensemble scenarios. Groundwater recharge was estimated for each scenario based on a rainfall-runoff model that was used to drive a numerical groundwater model, whose results were used to evaluate the future behavior of the aquifer under each scenario from 2020 to 2100. New hydrological insights for the study region: This study found that higher precipitation would contribute to larger groundwater recharge rates. Additionally, results showed that the aquifer is able to withstand the impacts of climate change through the balance of its water components, maintaining thus stable levels in areas of ecological value. Since the study site is one of the few remaining undeveloped groundwater basins, the results obtained represent the natural response of the system to climate change without interference from anthropogenic factors and thus serve as a baseline basin that could be used for comparative purposes. This contributes to a better quantification of aquifer dynamics in the Altiplano, allowing the evaluation of future protective measures to ensure survival of similar groundwater-dependent ecosystems in the area.

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Volumen: 39
Editorial: Elsevier
Fecha de publicación: 2022
Página de inicio: 100996
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejrh.2022.100996