The Pacific Ocean could quench the thirst caused by 10 years of drought in Chile, but the operation of desalination plants of various sizes has a long way to go to become sustainable and to serve society as a whole rather than just corporations.

Some twenty of these plants are already in operation providing desalinated water to small fishing communities, another three to the inhabitants of various municipalities and eight more to large mining companies, all but one of which are concentrated in Chile’s arid North.

The extensive development and availability of solar and wind energy has lowered the operating cost of desalinating and purifying seawater, which offers hope for a stable supply of water in this Southern Cone country with 4,270 kilometers of coastline.