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Lines of research

An interdisciplinary approach

To develop scientific knowledge and technology

CRHIAM seeks to foster spaces for interdisciplinary work and dissemination, implement actions with the participation of society and contribute to the development of knowledge to achieve water security for ecosystems, communities and production systems. This is carried out through five lines of research, which are detailed below:

Efficient use of water in agriculture and mining

The main goals of this line of research are the optimization of water resources and the analysis of large amounts of data. Research in agriculture is consolidated in two fields connected to the efficient use of water and information technologies and data analysis applied to complex production systems. For mining the focus is on improving water recovery in copper concentrators.

  • Leopoldo Gutiérrez (lgutierrezb@udec.cl)
  • Diego Rivera (diegorivera@udd.cl)

New water sources for agriculture, mining and communities

Three major driving forces propel this line:
  • Freeing freshwater for homes and agriculture.
  • Anticipating the “not a single drop of freshwater for industrial processes”.
  • Policy and evaluating the use of low-quality metallurgical water, seawater, well water and recycled water to make mining activity more viable in extremely arid regions.
Research work is organized around four projects:
  • Use of as-is or partially desalinated seawater in mineral processing.
  • Use of partially desalinated seawater in agriculture, development of cost-effective methods to improve water quality for agriculture and use of colloidal clay to clean large bodies of water and control the spread of harmful algae.
  • Development of a scientifically rigorous and quantitative methodology for the design of flotation, flocculation and anti-fouling reagents based on molecular modelling.
  • Tools and exploration of a methodology that does not involve water for separating mineral particles under the dry or green mining framework.


  • Pedro Toledo (petoledo@udec.cl)
  • Roberto Urrutia (rurrutia@udec.cl)
  • Gladys Vidal (glvidal@udec.cl)

Water availability and quality for agriculture and mining amid climate change

This line of research aims to understand the impact of climate change on water availability and quality in the basins of central Chile. To this end, the development of modeling and monitoring tools that allow deeper study of hydrological processes that control water resources availability and the production and pollution transport processes that affect their quality is proposed.

All this to guarantee water for human consumption and then agricultural and mining production, pollution control, environmental protection and social well-being.

  • Roberto Urrutia (rurrutia@udec.cl)
  • José Luis Arumí (jarumi@udec.cl)
  • Diego Rivera dirivera@udec.cl)
  • Ricardo Barra (ricbarra@udec.cl)

Technology for water treatment and environmental remediation

Some of the technologies addressed in this line of research are aimed at recovering wastewater, improving water retention in degraded soils and closing cycles, recovering valuable compounds, nutrients, energy and/or water, among other elements.

Both intensive and extensive technologies, based on physical, chemical and/or biological processes, are studied. The interdisciplinary life-cycle assessment tool is integrated into evaluation of different scenarios of technology application and its connection with the environment. In addition, the influence of technology acceptance by society is investigated, mainly through studies on its adaptation for implementation in rural communities.

  • Gladys Vidal (glvidal@udec.cl)
  • M. Cristina Diez (cristina.diez@ufrontera.cl)

Water governance, ecosystem services and sustainability

This line seeks to develop research that will assure water quality and quantity from a perspective of respect for fundamental rights, alignment with Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations and the conceptual and strategic perspective of water security.

Work is also being done to improve protection of various bodies of water (lakes, wetlands, aquifers, and glaciers, among others) and their associated ecosystem services through environmental conservation and land-use planning instruments. In addition, efforts are being made to promote water governance that fosters more equitable, inclusive, fair and democratic decision making, aimed at preventing and addressing water-related social conflicts and their judicialization.

  • José Luis Arumí (jarumi@udec.cl)
  • Ricardo Barra (ricbarra@udec.cl)