Drought in Puerto Rico

Right now, two thirds of Puerto Rico is classified as “abnormally dry.” This is enough to affect crops and pastures.

8.9% of the Island is experiencing “D-1” or “moderate drought” conditions. This is enough to cause some damage to crops and some water shortages. (Data from the U.S. government.)

Conditions of moderate drought are currently found in Aibonita, Barranquitas, Cidra, Comerio, La Parguera, La Plata, Morovis, Orocovis, Parcelas La Milagrosa, and Pole Ojea.

220,000 people are affected, as of this writing. These people generally rely on the Guajataca reservoir for their water. The reservoir was damaged by the 2017 hurricanes. The government says that repairs of the reservoir will be completed in May. Water rationing is planned.

Like all 38 dams in Puerto Rico, Guajataca is considered a “high hazard” dam. It was built in 1927 by PREPA, Puerto Rico’s electric power authority. It is administered by PRASA, the water authority.

There has been uncertainty about the quality of Puerto Rico’s drinking water since the hurricanes.

In 2015, nearly half of the Island faced severe drought, with water rationing and drinking water supplemented by municipal water trucks. Rationing at that time reached a point where households could have running water for one day out of four. Current plans will give residents one day of water alternating with one day without.

The drought is likely to have effects on wildlife as well. Puerto Rico has seen an increase in invasive species of fish in previous drought cycles, and drought is thought to be part of the reason for the startling reduction in species of insects on the Island.

The Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum says that the Caribbean is dryer now than it was in the past, and that Puerto Rico should be prepared for long-term drought. Along with increased risk of extreme weather such as major hurricanes, the drought is a sign of climate change.

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