By Leonardo Pena Garcia, Futaleufú Riverkeeper

Spanish version here.

Earlier this month, on December 3, the launch of the adventure tourism season was held in Futaleufú, one of the communities of Patagonia and one of the main destinations for national and foreign tourists. The Futaleufú River is one of these important places, where year after year the community, authorities, tourism companies, and local organizations meet to kick off one of the most anticipated seasons of the year.

On this occasion, the commitment to the care and protection of the rivers was also a protagonist, as part of the campaign for the protection of the Futaleufú River. This year, the community welcomed the visit of the Director General of the Water Directorate (DGA), Rodrigo Sanhueza and his team. In a historic milestone, they were officially presented with the flow reserve request for the Futaleufú River, an activity that was accompanied by various local authorities, including the Mayor of Futaleufú, Alejandro Avello, Deputy Mayor of Palena Marcelo Vásquez, representatives of the Patagonia Verde association, Luis Hurtado of Sernatur, the provincial delegate Luis Montaña, and the councilmen Alejandra Torres, Juvenal Gallardo and Andrés Ibañez.

Rodrigo Sanhueza addressing the community of Futaleufú during the presentation of the official
delivery of the flow reserve request for the Futaleufú River. Photo: Vicky Katrin

“The presence and meeting around the river are very important for the local social fabric,” says Adriana, representative of the Patagonia Verde tourist guide association. This is also valued by Soledad, part of the local Chicas al Agua team and of the Futaleufú River water monitoring program, who also highlights the importance of rescuing the community values of accessing the river, as a woman and inhabitant of Futaleufú.

Regarding the strategy for the protection of the Futaleufú River, the General Directorate of Water, represented by its national director Rodrigo Sanhueza, valued the fact that it is an initiative that arose from a public-private alliance, and was pushed mainly by the local community.

“It is different when a public official who works at the central level comes to the field, it is an experience that allows us to read what is being sought in the territory, understanding the reasons and motives behind it, we see that the river is part of the history of Futaleufú, of its identity, and that is why we are very happy to accompany this path in its protection. This is not only important for Futaleufú but for all the country’s watersheds, a task in which we are all called upon to collaborate and we will put all our talent and desire to carry out this mission”

Rodrigo Sanhueza

Regarding the changes in the flow reserve declarations and the current water scenario, Rodrigo Sanhueza commented, “This year the law was modified and made it possible to generate flow reserves with an ecosystemic vision, for supplying the population and in sufficient quantity considering various uses not previously contemplated. This is relevant given the situations of drought and water scarcity, which are no longer exclusive to the northern regions of the country, but are coming to stay throughout the territory, where institutions and citizens are closely linked in seeking joint solutions”, said the DGA national director, who also said he was very pleased to be present thanks to the invitation and articulation of his visit through the Futaleufú Riverkeeper Foundation and the reception by the mayor.

The day was also marked by adventure activities,
including rafting down the Futaleufú River. Photo: Vicky Katrin
Part of the descent of the Futaleufú River. Photo: Vicky Katrin

The mayor of Futaleufú, Alejandro Avello, said he was “very happy and honored to be protecting our natural resources, not only with words, but with studies and research that support our positions. All of Futaleufú wants and loves its rivers and the best thing we can do is to protect them for future generations, our children and grandchildren. I feel I am part of the work done by Futaleufú Riverkeeper with the flow reserve report”, words that are added to those of Marcelo Vásquez, deputy mayor of Palena, who also valued this alliance between the public and private sectors to generate joint initiatives for the protection of the Futaleufú River.

Receipt of the Futaleufú River flow reserve request
by Rodrigo Sanhueza, Director General DGA. Photo: Vicky Katrin

For Erwin Redlich, a Futaleufú tourism service provider, “this opportunity to represent the community and be part of this historic milestone for Futaleufú is very important to me, we all fight for the same thing, from our realities, interests or visions,” said this neighbor of the secluded sector of El Espolón.

He was joined by Genaro Vega, a representative of the Fly fishing group, who mentioned, “Protecting the waters of the Futaleufú River has always been a need of the inhabitants, however, until now it had not been possible to materialize in something so long awaited, today, the flow reserve is something that for all of us means the definitive protection of our waters”.

Thus, the submission of this request begins the institutional path to consolidate the declaration of the Futaleufú River flow reserve. In this way, together with the Puelo River, we can move forward to become the region with the most protected rivers in the country. It is worth recognizing that in Chile, rivers are unprotected. For this reason, hand in hand with this milestone, a series of activities that link the value of freshwater ecosystems and sustainable tourism will continue this summer in Patagonia Verde, promoted by local municipalities, SERNATUR and local organizations, including descents on the Yelcho and Palena rivers on January 14 and 18-22, as well as preparations for the launch of the #ríosprotegidos campaign during the international day of action for rivers on March 14 in Futaleufú.

The preparation of the flow reserve report is collaborative work of several local NGOs, community organizations, tourism companies, and the local community. Review the executive summary here.

Group photo during the closing ceremony. Photo: Vicky Katrin