Water levels in the Guajataca dam dropped, that should remind us how essential it is for Puerto Rico to be responsible in the use of this limited resource.
The Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority (PRASA) has called its customers to moderate water consumption, without ruling out the possibility to implement water rationing. PRASA has published some useful tips to follow while the island goes through low rainfall period. These practices should be part of our daily routines.
Fresh water is a finite resource, increasingly under pressure around the world. In islands like ours, is vital to preserve this resource. Puerto Rico has suffered prolonged water rationing –due to drought periods- at least twice in less than 40 years. A little over a week ago, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that, despite occasional rains in some areas, parts of the island are going through a moderate drought and expansion of the dry area.
As of January 15, most of the island was marked as an area of abnormal dryness. And the area that covers parts of Ciales, Morovis, Orocovis, Corozal, Barranquitas, Naranjito, Comerío, Cidra and Aibonito, in the center, as well as parts of Lajas, Guánica and Cabo Rojo, in the southwest, was under moderate drought classification.
Now –if compared to the situation two weeks ago- the map of the federal agency shows a relative improvement in dryness areas due to last week's rains that left an accumulation of just over two inches. But since the beginning of 2019, the areas and population with abnormal or moderate drought increased from eight to twelve municipalities and from 179,660 to 219, 232 people.
The potential impact that PRASA reported on northwestern municipalities served by the Guajataca Dam -Moca, Aguada, Aguadilla, Isabela, parts of San Sebastián and the Puntas de Rincón neighborhood- joins these regions.
The agency has issued a series of recommendations that citizens, companies and public entities must carefully follow to keep the dam at manageable levels. Meanwhile, PRASA said that its action plan -which includes transfer of services and activation of wells- has been implemented.
However, it is essential that Puerto Rico adopts the necessary proactive measures to face the projected increase in the frequency of extreme climatic events, rain or drought and the rise in the sea level that threatens to salinize the aquifers.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment, recently published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, warns of these risks, specifically for the Caribbean region, which has its own chapter for the first time. The document highlights the risks related to fresh water availability and its potential impact on agriculture, human health, wildlife and economic development. It also proposes to use all the available scientific information as the groundwork to design guidelines, polices and practices in order to reduce risk and adverse impacts. Accordingto the report, adapting to climate variations implies a continuous risk management process.
PRASA measures should be part of a larger climate change mitigation and adaptation plan. This should include reforestation and maintenance of our clean watersheds to reduce sedimentation and contamination in dams. Urban and infrastructure development planning, including sustainability criteria and present and projected demographic realities, and the adoption of the best conservation practices have to be part of the plan.
Measures regarding fresh water preservation will determine the strength of our economic growth.