Green light for collaboration with Chile

“Water connects, but only if you do it together.” This was the message that Henk Ovink took with him to Chile in 2018. Latin America is becoming increasingly important for the Dutch water sector. This mission was supported by the Partners for Water Programme to explore further opportunities between the Dutch and Chilean water sector.

The Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Henk Ovink, spent a few days in Chile with people from the Dutch Embassy, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, NWP and Deltares, to reinforce existing ties and explore how both countries can collaborate in the future. Chile is one of the countries included in the Partners for Water Programme that promotes knowledge exchange and creates business opportunities.

During the mission, different Partners for Water Programme activities came together. NWP provided support, coordinated the input from the different participants and helped shape the mission programme.

We started by talking about mutual ambitions to strengthen the bilateral relationship

Strengthen the relationship
“The ambition is there, and there’s certainly a need for Dutch expertise,” Henk Ovink explains. “The Netherlands and Chile have collaborated on water-related activities for quite a while. We wanted to see how we could strengthen the bilateral relationship with respect to water-related activities with the new government. So the idea was to start by talking about mutual ambitions.”

Integrated water resources management
During the mission, considerable attention was given to a Partners for Water project which started in Chile last year, the ‘GIRAGUA – integrated management and efficient use of water resources in the Coquimbo region’ project. Deltares, Arcadis, Leaf and IHE Delft will draw up an integrated water management plan for the Elqui river basin. The plan, that incorporates peer-to-peer learning and an open source approach, may be implemented in other parts of the country too.

Taking collaboration to the next level
Face-to-face meetings can strengthen cooperation. “In Chile, the main idea that we shared back and forth was that changes need to be implemented fast: set up pilots, see what happens in reality, learn and then scale up. If you first work everything out to the last detail, you’ll be too late. I believe the mission will help take the Dutch-Chilean collaboration to the next level. The political commitment is serious, and they have given us the green light,” concludes Henk Ovink.

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