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Chile Will Develop Municipal Desalination Plant for Desert City

March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Chile’s government will develop a municipal desalination plant for the city of Copiapo in the Atacama Desert after growing demand for water dried out aquifers and led to rationing last year.

The government will bring the first stage of the plant online in 2017 and a second stage by 2024, Magaly Espinosa, the country’s superintendent of water services, said at the Water Week Latin America conference in Vina Del Mar, Chile today.

Chile rationed water supply to Copiapo’s 158,438 residents last year after 27 aquifers were exhausted, forcing the government to seek a deal with mining companies Anglo American Plc and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. to share their water rights with the city. Both companies are also building desalination plants to run their copper mines in the Atacama region.

“We can assure clients that there will be enough supply,” Espinosa said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matt Craze in Santiago at mcraze@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net

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