Story at at a glance
- Puerto Rico is experiencing a drought ranging from moderate to severe in some parts of the territory.
- Gov. Wanda Vazquez has announced a state of emergency as the government begins rationing water.
- Some residents will only have water every other day during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez has declared a state of emergency as the territory suffers from a drought during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is limiting nearly 140,000 residents’ water service to every other day as one of several emergency measures, according to the Associated Press (AP), after shutting off water for eight hours each day earlier this month. The utilities company has not said how long these measures will last.
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“We’re asking people to please use moderation,” Doriel Pagán, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Water and Sewer Authority, told the AP. Residents have access to 23 water trucks stationed across the island and rain is forecasted later this week, but it might not be enough to pull the territory completely out of the drought.
More than 26 percent of the island is experiencing a severe drought and another 60 percent is under a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The southern region of Puerto Rico, where an earthquake hit earlier this year, is suffering the worst of the drought.
Many residents rely on a system of reservoirs in Puerto Rico for water, but several have not been dredged for years, leaving sediment to collect and allowing the excess loss of water. After Hurricane Maria in 2017, the utilities company sought a $300 million dredging investment from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Pagan told the AP, but the process is lengthy.
The loss of water is especially concerning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Vazquez has extended a curfew imposed in March for three more weeks, but certain businesses and government agencies have reopened. There have been more than 7,000 cases of coronavirus in Puerto Rico and 153 deaths, according to the New York Times coronavirus tracker.
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