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The growth of the Argentine wine industry has been thoroughly covered on Argenvino. However, the consequences of such growth have not been detailed as rigorously. A recent National Geographic article describes the plight of the Huarpe people living in the Monte Desert. Due to the increased use of upstream water supply by grape growers, researchers have concluded that the Huarpe may begin to receive less and less water in their already dry location.
At the turn of the twentieth century the massive Italian and Spanish migration forced the Huarpe – which are also know as Lavallinos – to find land elsewhere. Instead of going to cities, they went to the Monte Desert, a place nobody was willing to go to. They now rely on the Mendoza River, which is fed by melting snow from the Andes. However, as the wine industry continues to grow, more grape growers are using the water.
The research that has concluded that the water tables are diminishing has been completed by agronomist Esteban Jobbagy of the National University of San Luis and colleagues at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.
For Jobbagy, the solution lies in how vineyards irrigate. Most vineyards still use the mantle irrigation system, which includes flooding the vines every month or so. He claims that using the more advanced (and expensive) drip irrigation technique, which uses small pipes to feed the vines slowly, would help solve the problem.
Unfortunately, this is an issue that may fall on deaf ears. The wine business is a multi-billion dollar industry, while the Huarpe Indians only number in the few hundreds and have virtually no financial resources.
Source: “Wine Boom Threatens Native Argentine Water Source.” By Lorne Matalon. National Geographic News. June 20, 2007.
Image Location: National Geographic News Photo Gallery. Picture is of agronomist Esteban Jobbagy (National University of San Luis).