By Pilar Montes

What's left of the Cauto River. Photo: Carlos Sanabia
What’s left of the Cauto River. Photo: Carlos Sanabia/

HAVANA TIMES — A photo showing the dry bed of Cuba’s second largest river drove home just how chillingly severe our drought has become, to the point that I began to hope a tropical storm would come our way.

The storm that was on its way, which reached the category of hurricane and was named Danny, dissipated before hitting the Dominican Republic, and there is also little hope that tropical storm Erika will make it to our country.

The news of late is even less encouraging. Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila are the provinces with the least amount of water on reserve (13 and 10 percent of full capacity, respectively) – they have practically NO water, as their reserves cannot be used for human or animal consumption.

Underground water reservoirs that replenish wells and other sources of water have also receded to levels that make this the most severe drought experienced in the last 112 years.

According to the Cuban Meteorology Institute, the provinces of Artemisa, La Habana, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo are the most severely affected. Reserves around the country are at around 35 percent of full capacity.

Meteoro, the regular military exercise organized by Cuba’s Civil Defense Department every year prior to the start of the rainy and hurricane season, was this year aimed at confronting the prolonged draught in the country.

The Meteorology Institute reports that the 2015 May-July quarter experienced a 68 percent rain deficit that affected the entire country.

Of the 124 municipalities affected by the drought, the 10 with the largest water deficits were: Nueva Paz, Colon, Jovellanos, Los Arabos, Pedro Betancourt, Perico, Union de Reyes, Ranchuelo, Najasa and Colombia.

Cuba’s severe water deficit during this quarter was the fourth largest figure for the 1961-2015 period.

At the close of the dry season this past April, Cubans still expected the rainy season (May-October) would bring the water needed for people, soils and animals.

The reports by local news programs have none of the habitual triumphalism, showing scrawny animals trying to rip the occasional leaf from a yellow and cracked soil.

Another problem affecting the country is the growing salinization of soils, particularly in coastal areas, coupled with plantings that have been postponed due to the water shortages, making the dry season even worse. According to experts, the drought conditions will continue till next year.

25 thoughts on “Cuba Nears Serious Water Crisis

  • The immediate solution is NEOS WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEMS

  • Yup! The buck stops at the top!

  • Yoani explains it so eloquently…
    Huffington Post
    Drought in Cuba Lays Bare Decades of Water Mismanagement

    Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 28 August 2015

    Undone, with the sparks of short circuits clouding his vision and the cabin smashed into smithereens, Voltus V faced the worst end against a fearsome enemy. However, at the last minute, he drew his sword and in a clean cut slew his enemy. Japanese anime, so popular on the island during the eighties, seems to have inspired the Cuban authorities in their tendencies to hold off on certain solutions until a problem has already resulted in the worst ravages.

    This has happened with the recent announcement that, as of this coming September 15, a campaign will begin to “artificially increase the rain.” Through a technique known as “cloud seeding,” Pyrocartridges will be launched from a Russian Yak-40 plane so that the water vapor particles will condense, and this condensation will produce precipitation, according to the official press.

    The first reaction of many on reading the news was to wonder why they hadn’t done something like this earlier. Did the country have to get to its current state of hydrological emergency for Voltus V to draw his sword? With the dams at no more than 36% of capacity and 25 reservoirs completely dry–at the so-called “death point”–now the experts from the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) propose to bombard the clouds?

    The answers to these questions not only alert us to the insolvency and inefficiency of our state apparatus to handle certain issues, but also clearly indicate that they have not been up to the task to preserve this valuable resource. As long as leaks and breaks in the country’s water system continue to waste more than 50% of the water pumped, no water project will be sustainable.

    On the other hand, it is worth questioning how water management has been approached for decades in our nation, which has prioritized the creation of large reservoirs. This decision has ended up damaging the riverbeds of the countless dammed rivers and has reduced the sediment they carry to the coasts, with the consequent erosion of flora and fauna in the deltas.

    Of course, many of these reservoirs–now below half their capacity, or totally dry–were built at a time when the Hydrologist-in-Chief made decisions about every detail of our lives. The marks of his excesses and harebrained schemes are still apparent in our country, excesses that failed to give our people more food, more water and more freedom.

    So enormous public works of damming the rivers and streams were undertaken to the detriment of other solutions that would have helped us to ease the current situation. Among them, investments in wastewater treatment and the desalination of seawater, which surrounds us on all sides. Every hydrological bet in the country was placed on one card: the rain. Now, we are losing the game.

    If the announcement of “cloud seeding” had been made in a country with an environmental movement, we would see protests in the street. The method is not as innocuous as the newspaper Granma wants us to think. In fact, the critics of this practice consider it “an alteration of the normal rhythm of nature,” and argue that interference with moisture in one part of the country could compromise the rain pattern elsewhere.

    Looking up to see whether or not the rains come, we Cubans are waiting for something more than a crop of clouds altered with a blast of silver iodide. We deserve a coherent hydrology policy, over the long term, without magic or spells, but with guarantees. May the next drought not find us like Voltus V, destroyed and thirsty, raising an arm to draw our majestic sword… that we haven’t carried for a long time.

  • The $1 trillion figure you present as fact is far from it. But you seem to have no problem using random numbers as facts. The US infrastructure is indeed suffering but what the heck does that have to do with this thread? Most, not all, of Cuba’s problems sre self-inflicted. No surprise there.

  • I am printing this out and keeping it .
    It’s classic .
    Communism is now a religion.?

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