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Puerto Rico Residents Face Water Rationing That Lasts up to 48 Hours Amid Historic Drought

By By Heather Janssen, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
August 16, 2015, 8:21:33 AM EDT

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Many locals are faced with extreme water shortages amid one of Puerto Rico's worst droughts in history.

With little rain over the past several months, government officials have water rationing programs in effect on the eastern side of the island, including the city and neighborhoods of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Pagan Zunania, press director of the Water and Sewer Authority (AAA), stated that approximately 400,000 people are currently affected by the rationing plans on the island with a total of 1,230,000 customers under AAA services.


Some residents on the island have water turned off for 48 hours and then back on for 24 hours, while others are going without water in 24-hour and 12-hour cycles.

This has led locals to find creative ways/solutions to preserve water when water is turned off. More than 2 million people are currently affected by the drought so far, the U.S. National Drought Mitigation Center said.

"Typically, the Caribbean sees the most rain from June through November due to robust tropical waves that originate from Africa and produce tropical rainfall," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

From June 1 to Aug. 10, San Juan, Puerto Rico, has received only 36 percent of normal rainfall.

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However, the tourism sector has been spared from these rationing plans to help mitigate the drought-induced water shortages.

"Since the water issue and measures that the government announced had to be taken, hotels have continued their operations and businesses as usual," said Carols Martinez, a member of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA) Security Committee.

Martinez added that the drought has yet to cause any significant negative impacts to the tourism sector as far as visitors are concerned.

"In spite of the drought, they [hotels] have continued providing the service and guest comfort guests expect during their stay," Martinez said. "Most of the hotels, big and some small ones too, operate on water cisterns which pump water to all the property during their normal operations; when water level reaches a certain level then it will automatically be re-filled either by state Water Authority or in some cases the hotel buys water from a private vendor."

El Niño is one of the causes for the dry weather across Puerto Rico and other countries across much of the Caribbean. Along with El Niño, an abnormal amount of dust and dry air over the southern Atlantic is a factor.


"The combination of strong, westerly winds aloft [stirred by El Niño] and dry, stable air persistent over the the southern Atlantic has led to no significant rainfall over the Caribbean," Kottlowski said.

Kottlowski added that the island was already below normal for yearly rainfall due to a deficit during the winter months.

From January to June this year, San Juan received only 14.81 inches of rain compared to the normal of 23.96 inches.

"Hotels have been implementing aggressive internal procedures to mitigate the lack of water," Martinez said.

Such procedures include cutbacks in watering landscaping, not using a hose for cleaning public areas and constant review of areas to make sure there are no leaks in machine rooms and other areas.

"On the other hand, small hotels that do not have cisterns for backup are the ones that can be the most impacted; they would have to acquire water from vendors constantly to continue operations," Martinez said.

Martinez added that the Puerto Rico Tourism Company is playing an active role in conserving water by reaching out to hotels with tips on how to use and preserve water without affecting service and hygiene at the hotel.

No major changes [in the weather pattern] are expected over the next several weeks for Puerto Rico, Kottlowski stated.

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