News Feature | October 13, 2017

Water Service Devastated In Puerto Rico

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

harvey reg new

Lack of universal access to water has been one of the most stunning and difficult consequences Puerto Rico has faced after Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s infrastructure.

As late as two weeks after the storm, water still had not been restored to about half of Puerto Rican customers, The Washington Post reported, citing government officials.

“Eli Díaz-Atienza, president of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, would not say how long it could be before full water service is restored as government officials struggle to rebuild a power grid that supplied electricity to water treatment plants and pumps,” the report said.

“Government officials said it could be months before power is fully restored across the island — with a maze of poles and wires down and severed — which means it could be similarly difficult to get water flowing,” the report continued.

Generators were deployed to power plants and aqueducts, but generator reliance means water service is easily disrupted, the report said. National Guard troops trucked bottled water to isolated regions.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said in early October “that 47 percent of water and sewer service is running in the commonwealth. He said the figure varies in part because 1,400 generators are powering the water service, and some occasionally go down,” Bloomberg reported.

“But in general progress is being made,” he added, per the report.

In the absence of universal water access, Puerto Rico residents are resorting to desperate measures.

“The majority of our colleagues are washing their clothes in a creek,” said Linaida Santiago Arroyo, a nurse at a kidney dialysis center, per the Miami Herald. “We don’t have enough water to clean things up. There’s mud. There’s garbage that they still haven’t picked up,” she said. “It can attract insects that then come closer to the house.”

“When I bathe the baby, I use the same water to flush the toilet,” Santiago added.

Image credit: "Hurricane Harvey Flooding - 8/26 to ?," jillcarlson.org © 2017, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/