Tuesday, June 23

Puerto Rico's Drought Crisis. Why didn't this make headline news in the USA? UPDATED 6/24

UPDATE 6/24 - 6:00 AM EDT -- Well, the story is making some headlines today.  See AP report Caribbean Facing Widespread Drought And Water Shortages by Danica Coto.  So it's not only Puerto Rico.  
In the nearby Dominican Republic, water shortages have been reported in hundreds of communities, said Martin Melendez, a civil engineer and hydrology expert who has worked as a government consultant. "We were 30 days away from the entire water system collapsing," he said.
I should mention that UPI beat Slate to the punch by more than a month and that Al Jazeera reported on the crisis on May 25. I am steamed because there was nothing about the issue posted at Google News.  Google needs to stop prioritizing news headlines according to what Fox and CNN determine is top news.  The way I learned about the crisis was from the new Los Angeles Times "Water and Power" newsletter quoting the Slate article.        

By Eric Holthaus
June 22, 2015

In California, reservoir levels are plummeting. The state’s precious mountain snowpack is already gone. On Thursday, a huge wildfire in the San Bernadino National Forest grew in size by 500 percent in just four hours. This weekend, a fire near Lake Tahoe exploded to seven times the size of New York City’s Central Park in little more than half a day. Both were visible from space Sunday night. Temperatures are soaring, locking in drought for months if not years to come. “The situation is grim for everyone and everything,” said Charlton H. Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

At least it’s not Puerto Rico.

Last week, the Puerto Rican government ramped up drinking water rationing for 200,000 users in the San Juan area, permitting households to draw water only every third day. Rainfall deficits have been building up since 2013, drying up rivers and streams at a record-breaking pace. It’s become one of the worst droughts in the island’s history.

But the situation in Puerto Rico is much more complex than just a lack of rain. Last month, Gov. Alejandro Padilla issued a state of emergency over the drought, which he blamed partly on the island’s struggling economy and the low priority given to water storage by previous governors. Padilla has appealed to Congress for the ability to declare bankruptcy and at least partially eliminate a whopping $73 billion in debt. Water rationing will only worsen the fragile economy, currently mired in an eight-year recession.

John Morales, a Miami-based meteorologist who provides weather forecasting services for the Caribbean, said Puerto Rico’s government could actually be underestimating the seriousness of the problem. The island’s dwindling reservoirsare so silted up from bygone years of intense tropical downpours they’re not able to store as much water as the government thinks they can.

“The capacity of the reservoirs has been severely compromised by sedimentation and lack of maintenance,” Morales told me. What’s worse, he said the island’s “crumbling infrastructure” is producing “huge losses” of water from innumerable leaks.


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