Cuba Nears Serious Water Crisis

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

  • November 4, 2017 at 7:37 am

    The immediate solution is NEOS WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEMS

  • August 31, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    Yup! The buck stops at the top!

  • August 30, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    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.

  • August 30, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    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.

  • August 30, 2015 at 11:22 am

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

  • August 30, 2015 at 11:20 am

    If only the Cubans had the resources to fix their infrastructure.
    In not fixing their infrastructure they very closely resemble the United States whose roads and bridges are catastrophically failing .
    Of course Cuba , having lost $US1 trillion over the years of the embargo have that for a good reason not to paint and repair and to spend all available money on more urgent necessities.
    The U.S. spends that US$1 trillion every year to enforce free enterprise capitalism and U.S. hegemony on the world (including Cuba ) and so has little left over to fix its infrastructure.
    But sure , the problems of Cuba are all self-inflicted when you live in a right-wing Fantasy Land .

  • August 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

    “….dictatorship of the Castro family regime claiming to be the government…”
    Great and crazy right wing terminology.
    Thanks for the Sunday morning laugh.
    The drought in Cuba and California is all the “Castros” fault.

  • August 28, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    The answer Moses is nothing!

  • August 27, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Do you recall the late and great Peter Lougheed saying that Alberta’s fresh water would in the long term be more important than the oil?
    The North Saskatchewan flowing through Edmonton is at the lowest level I have seen and the paddle boat has had to be docked for the season. I last saw the Athabasca Glacier in 2014 and was amazed at how far it had retreated since I first saw it in 1976.
    You are correct about the misuse of water by California’s agricultural industry and the overuse of the aquifers.
    It would be interesting if Cuba would publicly describe the aquifers there and their potential contribution to agriculture. But proper development of the infrastructure – especially water – will take many years to resolve, as the regime has allowed massive deterioration and only recently addressed it in Havana.

  • August 27, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Whatever they cost, they have to borrow!

  • August 27, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Although as Dictators, the Castro brothers who originally as communists opposed religion (other than communism), they are unlikely to be canonized and certainly ought not to be confused with any deity. Fidel’s peculiar position as a Grade III Jesuit is seldom if ever discussed. Had Fidel had the power, he would undoubtedly have wished a drought upon California to support his wish to use nuclear weaponry.

  • August 27, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    ask your friend Carlyle MacDuff 

  • August 27, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Michel and friends are now digging new wells for our two houses in Niquero. Angelica is on the food and drink team.

  • August 27, 2015 at 11:09 am

    What does your comment have to do with this post?

  • August 27, 2015 at 8:04 am

    This is a part of an article I have come across , would you believe in the US the richest country on the planet they’re still using water pipelines made out of wood planks ,
    “Aging of Water Mains Is Becoming Hard to Ignore – The New York …
    CHELAN, Wash. — It has been 2,000 years since the Romans built their aqueducts, and 200 years since Philadelphia began using cast-iron water mains. But the 6-inch-wide city pipe that still delivers drinking water to a block on Nixon Street here uses an even more primitive technology: wood.
    Its wooden planks are lashed together with a coil of metal as if each section of pipe were a long, narrow barrel. And while the small stretch beneath the ground here may seem more Swiss Family Robinson than 21st century, it is not unique to Chelan.”

    why some estimates anywhere from 4 to 5 trillion dollars the US squandered on war in the Middle East,
    if they would have spent that kind of money in a constructive instead of a destructive way we would be better off ,
    $1000,000,000,000.00 this is what a trillion dollars looks like in numbers
    An estimate I came across in an economy news show says it will take $65,000 for every US citizen to pay off the national debt ,.

  • August 26, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Keep up Rich. We are talking about broken pipes now, not hurt feelings. I assume that you mean verbal grenades by the way.

  • August 26, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Of course, Moses, such greedy and revengeful evils as the embargo and terrorism designed to recapture and/or punish Cuba has not created or exacerbated any or all of the problems that affect the island. Punditry and self-serving platitudes while hurling invectives and grenades at the island from a safe haven shame democracy. Caring for Cubans on the island as opposed to hurting them since 1959 in the guise of HURTING CASTRO seems never to cross the minds of benefactors. .

  • August 26, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    You may have noticed nidal that I have commented upon the water leaking from the water pipe system and running down the streets of our city. If the dictatorship of the Castro family regime claiming to be the government, holds no responsibility for the infrastructure of Cuba, who does?

  • August 26, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    did the Castros cause the California drought , is God a Castro .

  • August 26, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    did the Castros cost that too

  • August 26, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    The USA is also in a very severe drought situation. Lake Mead, serving California is at the lowest since the dam was constructed. The Rio Grande doesn’t always make it to the sea. The Mississippi is only navigable for a relatively short distance upstream The Ogallala ,aquifer has been drawn down to 40% of its capacity, principally to grow corn to make ethanol!! It takes as much energy to make ethanol from corn as you get from the product, Crazy.

    In Alberta we have also suffered drought conditions and many farms have negligible harvests,

  • August 26, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    The draught is not Fidel’s fault.

    The decay of existing water management facilities and the lack of development of adequate infrastructure over the past 56 years are indeed the fault of the Maximum Leader.

  • August 26, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Haha, don’t be so cynical. My State of California is also suffering from record drought. As much as I would like to blame the Castros for the drought, it simply cannot be done. What is their fault are the decades of infrastructure neglect which serves to exacerbate the impact of the drought. Broken and leaky water systems make even worse in the delivery of the precious water resources.

  • August 26, 2015 at 11:23 am

    I wonder how long it’s going to take before they blame
    this on the Castros

  • August 26, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Michel and Angelica Robinson are visiting family in Niquero – Granma and report serious water shortages in that area.

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