November 28, 2020

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Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced declare a state of emergency regarding the use of water due to drought

Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced issued Executive Order 2020-049 that declares a state of emergency due to drought for all of Puerto Rico, assigning as a priority, attention to regions that are affected by meteorological, agricultural and hydrological drought.

“This Government has taken all the necessary measures to safeguard public order and protect the life, security, and property of citizens and the Government amidst the great challenges that Puerto Rico has had to face in the face of recent emergency situations. . During the past weeks, we have been facing a period of low precipitation, which, together with the continuous aftershocks that continue to occur due to the Earthquake of January 7, 2020 and in the face of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) threatens the general welfare , including basic services and the health of our citizens, "said the governor.

In addition, OE 2020-049 orders the Department of Public Security (DS) to carry out the inter-agency coordination of executive and technical actions of planning, mitigation, response and recovery to comprehensively address the drought emergency declaration, with the advice of various government agencies.

All agencies, their interagency efforts to monitor and coordinate government actions in accordance with the drought event, should use the Protocol for Drought Management in Puerto Rico 2018 as a guide.

Vázquez Garced indicated that, at its most In a recent report dated June 25, 2020, the United States National Weather Service, through the Drought Monitor, classified 29 municipalities in a period of moderate meteorological drought, and 21 municipalities in a period of severe meteorological drought. [19659006] Moderate and severe drought, as defined by said Drought Monitor, implies potential damage to crops, pastures, rivers, reservoirs and wells, and represents a decrease in water and intermittent water levels.

Likewise, the Drought Monitor declared 12 municipalities under the category of atypically dry climate. These classifications respond to the low levels of precipitation registered and the decrease in the main drinking water reservoirs.

The first executive added that: “During the past two weeks, the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority has been forced to implement service interruption plans in the municipalities of Canóvanas, Loíza, Río Grande and San Lorenzo due to low precipitation. Similarly, it is necessary to implement a plan to interrupt water use services for the municipalities that supply the Carraízo reservoir. These are Canóvanas, Carolina, Gurabo, San Juan and Trujillo Alto. The dramatic drops in said reservoir, accompanied by the rain deficit, have caused a substantial drop in the water reserve that supplies these municipalities. "

The drought phases in Puerto Rico are evaluated according to various scientific and technical criteria including: rain analysis (deviation from normal), meteorological models, the United States Drought Monitor (the “Drought Monitor”), the flow of water in rivers, the tendency to drought in some selected basins, the reservoir levels, aquifer levels with data from observation wells, characterization of drought conditions in protected natural areas, as well as aspects and impacts on forest fires and agricultural activities planting and harvesting crops, availability of livestock feed as well as water for livestock drinking and stable cleaning, among others.

According to data from the United States Geological Survey, the flows of the surface water bodies in Puerto Rico present conditions lower than the typical historical averages of said water bodies. Similarly, according to sentinel piezometers, the water levels of the southern aquifers show negative changes, reflecting a decrease in their levels. Those monitored in the municipalities of Ponce, Juana Díaz and Santa Isabel are in the observation phase, while in Salinas Rasa-D is in the Operational Adjustment phase and Aguirre is in the Critical phase. No changes in climate conditions are expected to improve the situation.

“We are responding to the important recommendations of the Scientific Committee on Drought to declare this state of drought emergency in our continued commitment to take the necessary measures to safeguard security. of our people and, above all, acting quickly and effectively in the face of the unexpected situations that have been presented to us since January. Again, and in this new scenario, we are going to do everything necessary to ensure health and offer tranquility to all the families of our island. "

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