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Raising concern about the ecological sustainability of economic growth schemes in countries with transition economies clearly illustrates the urgent need for the development and implementation of natural resources management plans. However, one of the problems most of these countries deal with, is the lack of practical experience in this area, especially when compared to many Northern Hemisphere countries. Also, in many cases, high-quality spatially referenced environmental thematic information layers are not readily available in standardized digital data formats from central data centers or government institutions. The present work illustrates the strategies used by a multidisciplinary research group from the EULA-Chile Center in the development of water resources protection tools for an experimental watershed in South-Central Chile. The selection of the study area is based on its similarity to many other economically important Central Valley agricultural watersheds of the country's Mediterranean climate zone. The interaction between geographers, land planners, biologists, engineers, chemists, economists and computer specialists has been stimulated through the design and implementation of an Environmental Geographic Information System (WE-GIS) for the watershed, which has occupied a central position in the present project's methodological framework. Attention has mainly been focused on the assessment of surface and groundwater availability and quality, and its relation with historical, actual and projected tendencies for productive systems and land use. An important aim of the project is to stimulate both public and governmental awareness about the need for an integrated approach for the management of watershed resources. Furthermore, it is believed that the experiences gained from the present study may be of great use for the definition of general guidelines, to be considered in the development of agricultural watershed management plans for Chile's Mediterranean region. An adapted, user-friendly version of the Environmental Geographic Information System is to be handed over to the Chilean Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) at the end of the project.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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