“Cattle Are Starving, Crops Are Drying Up” As Puerto Rico Rations Water

Monday, August 10, 2015
By Paul Martin

By Rafael Azul
10 August 2015

On Sunday August 9, Alberto Lázaro, president of Puerto Rico’s Water and Sewage authority, announced a third phase in a water rationing plan that began last May. Hundreds of thousands of households in the San Juan Metropolitan Area and in Puerto Rico’s North Coast will be limited to two days a week of water beginning this Thursday. Families will have potable water either on Tuesdays and Saturdays, or on Wednesdays and Sundays, depending on where they reside.

About 1.3 million Puerto Ricans, one-third of the population, currently suffer extreme water rationing. In rural areas, cattle are starving and crops are drying up. Budget cuts have severely impacted government programs that could have reduced the severity of the blow to small and medium-sized farms.

Hundreds of schools have been placed on short hours, and parents have been asked to send their children to school with bottles of water in their lunchboxes. Over three hundred schools in Metropolitan San Juan are being supplied emergency water, some of them by fire departments in their vicinity.

Puerto Rico, together with the other islands in the Antilles, are under severe drought conditions. However, the water shortage, according to studies carried out by experts of the University of Puerto Rico [1], is just as much due to decades of disinvestment in the repair of aging pipelines and other infrastructural issues (including water quality).

The announcement of the new extreme measures took place two days after Luis F. Cruz Batista, who heads Puerto Rico’s Office of Management and Budget, declared that he was placing Puerto Rico’s General Fund on “rations.”

“I must shut-off the spigot,” declared Cruz. “This works the same as with water rationing. We could leave the faucet open and fund the government’s current budget, until next month, when there will be no more liquidity. Therefore, as a preventive measure, I have to freeze all funds, and ration money quarter by quarter.”

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