Puerto Rican officials announced a third phase of water rationing will be implemented this week, due to drought conditions and a government that is too indebted to pay for infrastructure repairs.
Hundreds of thousands of households in capital San Juan and along the country's north coast will be limited to two days a week of water – either Tuesdays and Saturdays or Wednesdays and Sundays, depending on where they reside – beginning this Thursday.
The measure is part of a larger water rationing plan that has been in place since May, which has so far affected some 1.3 million people across the country of 3.5 million.
In rural areas, crops have been drying up and cattle starving due to the extreme water rationing laws.
Puerto Rico and the rest of the Antilles are experiencing severe drought conditions brought on by a particularly harsh El Niño that began in March. The Caribbean island’s reservoirs have dropped to their lowest levels in decades.
However, many say that the dire impacts on the Puerto Rican people of strict water rationing could have been avoided if the government had coughed up the money.
According to locals, leaders of the U.S. commonwealth have put paying back the country's US$73 billion debt ahead of services for its citizens, including cushioning the water rationing blow to small and medium sized farmers.
“I see it ... as parallel to government policy in general,” said local farmer Roberto Fernandez. “The government puts more value into those from abroad than they are concerned about the local situation and the well-being of the public.”
Studies have also shown that the water shortage is not solely related to the drought, but also due to decades of disinvestment in the repair and maintenance of aging pipelines and other infrastructure on the island, reported the World Socialist Website.
The new rules come as Puerto Rico defaulted on its debt for the first time in its history last week.