Rationing ordered for Puerto Rico towns served by Guajataca reservoir
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced Monday morning, along with several agency heads, water control and rationing plans that will be carried out for customers who are supplied from the Guajataca reservoir, given below-normal rainfall in the past few months.
Due to the drought Puerto Rico is facing, a release from the governor’s office said, a rationing plan that includes service interruptions will be implemented “in coordination with the mayors” of half a dozen municipalities, or some 220,000 people.
“For the Government, it is important that our people enjoy drinking water service with the greatest possible continuity. This is why we will take action now to make operational adjustments to the Guajataca reservoir and thus avoid that the situation worsens,” the governor said, adding that, “with the collaboration of the pertinent agencies and the help of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the work will be completed as soon as possible.”
The governor’s office release cites the most recent data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, saying 46 municipalities have been “abnormally dry” and another 15 face “moderate drought.”
Abnormally dry areas are not in drought but are experiencing conditions such as short-term dryness–slowing planting and the growth of crops or pastures–that could turn into drought; or lingering water deficits and pastures or crops that have not fully recovered when coming out of drought.
Moderate drought includes a dry period that represents where there can be some damage to crops and pastures, as well as low streams, reservoirs or wells and some water shortages are developing or imminent, where voluntary water-use restrictions are requested, according to the U.S. Water Monitor.
The executive president of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa), Elí Díaz Atienza, explained that starting Feb. 20 service will be “alternated” between the municipalities of Aguadilla, Aguada, Camuy, Isabela, Moca, Quebradillas and the Puntas de Rincón barrio, with some areas resulting in suspended service for 24 hours at a time, according to the Associated Press.
Díaz Atienza added that “after the passage of Hurricane Maria, the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers has been carrying out work to remedy the damage sustained by the Guajataca reservoir. However, with the forecast of little precipitation–and despite the adjustments and the reduction of significant extractions that Prasa has made to avoid that the service of subscribers is affected–the levels the reservoir reflect today require that these adjustments be made operational.”
The executive director of Prasa, José Ortiz Vázquez, said that according to Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) and USACE projections, the work on the Guajataca reservoir is expected to conclude in May.
“In collaboration with the Corps of Engineers, we hope the work is completed quickly,” Ortiz Vázquez said, adding that if “carried out responsibly and effectively…the lake will be able to return to 194 meters and store more water for the benefit of the affected customers.”
In the governor’s office release, the secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), Tania Vázquez Rivera, explained that “the projection of the members of the scientific committee is there will not be a significant precipitation event in the coming months and the rains of March will determine if the event worsens or improves.”
The mayor of Isabela, Carlos Delgado Altieri, of the minority Popular Democratic Party, blamed the lack of action by the island’s government and Usace, saying Prepa and its Irrigation Division, as well as Prasa, allowed Usace to continue extracting water from the reservoir to the Guajataca River, without anticipating that levels were falling quickly, close to a period of low rainfall and despite his repeated warnings.
The Carraízo, La Plata, Patillas, Carite, Río Blanco, Caonillas and Fajardo reservoirs are at safe levels; while the Cidra and Toa Vaca reservoirs on high observation.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Central Office of Recovery and Reconstruction (COR3), Omar J. Marrero, said several water projects are underway, including “floating pumps and improvements to the water intakes of the Guajataca and Carraízo reservoirs; the intake of raw water; the expansion of the Culebrinas River; the removal of sediment from Lake Aguadilla; and dredging of the reservoirs of Patillas, La Plata and Dos Bocas, among others.”
“For us, it is a priority to work hand in hand with Prasa and the DNER in order to identify the priority projects in that sector and obtain the funds needed to execute them for the benefit of the People of Puerto Rico,” Marrero added.
For more information, visit Prasa’s website, www.acueductospr.com.