San Juan. About 140,000 clients of the state water company in Puerto Rico began this Thursday a plan to interrupt service due to the drought, exacerbated by maintenance-free infrastructure and reservoirs with excess sediment, causing 60% of the water to be wasted.
The rationing plan of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (AAA) for the clients of the Carraízo reservoir began in the early hours of the morning in various sectors of the municipalities of Trujillo Alto, Carolina, Canóvanas and San Juan, around the metropolitan area of the capital.
The Carraízo reservoir (Trujillo Alto) registered a level 37 meters this Thursday, a decrease of 10 centimeters compared to Wednesday.
The president of the AAA, Doriel Pagán, said that the rains that have fallen in recent days, very little have done so into the basin of the Carraízo reservoir.
“What we wanted with this rationing plan is to avoid reaching 48 hours of rationing, because we know that we are in a special period because of the pandemic,” he said.
The president of the AAA, Doriel Pagán, said in a radio interview that he hopes that the tropical wave that will pass through the region will leave some rain.
Pagán indicated that as a consequence of the absence of rain, an order was published that regulates the use of water, which forbids to wash vehicles, among other measures, and whose violation will result in fines of up to $2,500.
The plan to interrupt service, in segments of 24 hours, one day yes and another no comes after the governor, Wanda Vázquez, published on June 29 the executive order 2020-049 that declares a state of emergency due to drought for the entire island.
Vázquez indicated, in order to justify the measure that, in its report of June 25, the United States National Weather Service classified 29 municipalities in a state of moderate meteorological drought and 21 in severe meteorological drought.
The interruption of the service has not prevented the AAA from announcing last Tuesday, for the fourth time since January 2018, of a rate increase that will make the service more expensive by 2.5% for its residential customers.
The increase for commercial, industrial and government subscribers will be 2.8%, 3.5% and 4.5%, respectively.
These increases were approved in 2017 and will be repeated, at least, until fiscal year 2022, according to the AAA certified fiscal plan.
The lack of rain is one of the reasons for the beginning of rationing, but not the only one, since experts have pointed out that the poor condition of the pipes through which the water circulates -which causes massive leaks- and the sedimentation that is increasingly gaining more space in the reservoirs are other reasons for the problem.
The Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF), the federal control entity imposed by Washington to deal with the debt, announced on June 26 the certification of the AAA’s fiscal plan, at which time the problems of this state company were noted.
They denounce the loss of water
The executive director of the JSF, Natalie Jaresko took the opportunity to denounce that too much water is lost due to recurrent breaks in the pipes, faulty meters and other deficiencies.
According to Jaresko, up to 60% of the water is wasted before it reaches homes.
Regarding the quality of the water, he pointed out that the reports point to worrying trends due to violations in the percentage of nitrates and chlorine-based by-products.
In addition to the leaks in the pipes that carry water, another problem for the AAA in Puerto Rico is the extremely high sedimentation in the reservoirs that affects a large part of its capacity, which was aggravated after Hurricane María in September 2017.
According to estimates, the reservoirs lost more than 12% of its capacity as a result of the atmospheric event.
According to the scientist Jorge Ortiz Zayas, Puerto Rico is one of the countries with the highest number of reservoirs per capita in the world, but the low retention capacity of the water that these reserves have is aggravated by the lack of sedimentation control and the absence of a cleaning plan.
The lack of water is compounded by the consequences for the economy and more specifically for the countryside since according to Agriculture Department reports drought from 2014 to 2016 caused agriculture losses of nearly $13 million, a situation that could even increase in 2020.
The US Drought Monitor report released this Thursday reflects that 73.2% of the surface of Puerto Rico is in an abnormally dry situation.
22.4% of the island’s surface is in a situation of severe drought.
Puerto Rico has 38 reservoirs and dams, but only 11 of the 34 public reservoirs provide drinking water that is consumed by the nearly 3 million inhabitants of the island.