Hydrogeological characterization of the Silala River catchment


Hydrogeological characterization of the Silala River catchment

AuthorCarolina Gómez, Francisco Suárez, Sebastián García, José Muñoz

Recursos Críticos

Year of Publication2023
Journal TitleWIREs Water

AbstractThis article reviews hydrogeological studies carried out between 2016 and 2018 in the Silala River basin, a catchment shared by Chile and Bolivia. These were conducted in the context of the Case Concerning the Status and Use of the Waters of the Silala River, submitted to the International Court of Justice in 2016, and contributed to multidisciplinary science to demonstrate that this system is an international watercourse. In 2016, the hydrogeological understanding of the Silala River basin was poor. The studies reviewed here filled many knowledge gaps, providing a solid hydrogeological baseline, and establishing new monitoring infrastructure to collect relevant aquifer data. The most important hydrogeological units were identified as the fluvial deposits, alluvial deposits, and the Cabana ignimbrite. The latter is highly heterogeneous, weathered and fractured, and exhibits a high permeability. It is the most important unit in terms of productivity, and is the major regional aquifer providing spring flows to Bolivian wetlands and groundwater flow across the international border. The studies provided a preliminary understanding of the main aquifers in Chile and their properties, which underpinned the development of a robust hydrogeological conceptual model of the system, reviewed elsewhere in this special issue. Subsequent refinements are also summarized. This work confirmed that both surface water and groundwater flows from Bolivia to Chile, and thus confirms the status of the Silala River as an international watercourse and provided the basis for a basin-scale groundwater numerical model, used to investigate the impact of wetland channelization on surface water/groundwater partitioning.
Corresponding AuthorFrancisco Suárez, fsuarez@ing.puc.cl