Venezuelan authorities have announced a water rationing plan for capital Caracas, the environment ministry (Minamb) said. The opposition says the government is using the water cuts to drive them into exile.
Minamb says rationing is needed to increase water reserves and guarantee sufficient supply for the city’s population.
Restrictions started on 2 November 2009 and consist of a series of programmed cuts to the water supply. These cuts will not last longer than 48 hours, Minamb said.
During the rainy season, from May to October, rainfall was 30% below average due to the El Niño climate phenomenon. This affected water levels in reservoirs such as El Lagartijo, whose current level is at 4Mm3, compared to the average 30Mm3 it should have at this time of year.
One of the greatest problems the city faces is cultural, as citizens consume much more water than they need: “We are producing water for twice the amount of citizens we supply, and this is due to waste,” environment minister Yuvirí Ortega said.
The magnitude of the drought is not as large as the one in 2003, when the Camatagua reservoir dried up, Ortega said.
Even schools will have to deal with the water shortages, the government said. Only hospitals will be equipped with water around the clock.
The water rationing is a bit surprising according to BNamericas, because in July 2009, the president of public water utility Hidrocapital, Alejandro Hitcher, said that rainfall in that month guaranteed potable water supply in the city for the next year.
The opposition is accusing Chavez of limiting water use as a “democratic” way of driving them into exile. The opposition is expected to win the upcoming 2010 legislative elections and Chávez has already warned citizens about the violence that will break out if his party does not obtain a majority.
The water cuts will not only lead to general panic but will also affect the economy, as restaurants, clubs and all sorts of services will be forced to curtail activities, a member of opposition party Acción Democrática (AD) told BNamericas. The AD member added that the government is limiting citizens’ capacity to store water on the days it is not available.
“They are monitoring the amount of water that we use on a daily basis and, if this increases, they will shut down our service. In other words, they are not letting us store any water, because storing would boost consumption on the days previous to the weekly cuts,” the AD member said.
Source: BNamericas.com [subscription site], 27 Oct 2009 ; CNN, 03 Nov 2009 ; Eva Medalla, BNamericas.com [subscription site], 05 Nov 2009