Venezuela is having shortages, a humanitarian crisis maybe on the horizon. Food , medicine, money, electricity, and water are all either rationed or unavailable, as the government faces deep recession and drought. Water is what we do here at Rainsoft Eternally Pure Water Systems so we will focus on that aspect of their crisis.
No sector better represents the ambitions,limitations ,and failures of Hugo Chavez, and subsequently the present regime of Nicolas Maduro, than Venezuela’s constantly rationed water. El Nino has brought a drought to the region, the government announced extended Easter Holidays in March, and then the closure of shopping malls and a reduced work week in April.
Electrical Blackouts to save money during drought:
These measures were required to reduce electricity needs as water levels in the Guri hydroelectric dam had fallen to critical levels. 65% of the electricity that Venezuela needs is produced here. Guri’s water reserve has dropped to 244 metres , which is only 4 metres above the point where the generators will have to wind down…closing 8 turbines and the loss of 5,000MW.
Guri Hydro Dam:
Venezuela has great water resources , but in the wrong place. 85% of the water resources are located in the south east of the country, home to only 10% of the population. The bulk of the population lives in the urbanised north, but has only 15% of the water resources. Investment in the infrastructure in the 1950’s and 60’s improved the supply of water to a vast majority of the population. Investment and planning did not keep up with demand. In 1989 frustration with shortages, inefficient service, pollution, and loss of quality prompted the formation of a new decentralized regulatory framework. Problems continued.
When the populist Hugo Chavez took power the government took radical steps to address a growing water crisis that largely affected the inhabitants of the shanty towns(supporters of Chavez). In 2001 the National Statistics Institute found 2/3 of Venezuela’s municipalities had insufficient water and sanitation. By Presidential Decree the Water and Sanitation Law was brought in, which further decentralized water policy down to 7,000 community associations. Local populations were responsible to identify needs and investment priorities. At the same time the government nationalized key sectors of the economy ..including electricity.
Empowering communities and national self sufficiency is a great vision , but like so much before failed to deliver. The investment of billions of dollars in water and electricity failed to keep up with demand. Poor management and lack of technical expertise have led the efforts down the wrong path. those 7,000 community associations who took responsibility for their situation were quickly undone by among other issues..unresponsive officials.
Venezuela is at a cross roads…financial collapse does not allow for huge investment in large scale water projects. Ongoing political crisis has put questions of resource management and conservation to the back of the agenda. If they are not careful health consequences from the household stockpiling of water could increase exposure to mosquito borne disease, including Zika, yellow fever, dengue. and chikungunya.
What I pick up from this is …similar to us the supply of water and sanitation is not a problem, until it is a problem and then it is a big problem. Investment in our water and sewer systems is not a luxury , but a necessity…so we don’t have problems.