Bogotà, Colombia Starts Rationing Water For 9 Million People

Bogotà, Columbia is currently experiencing a severe drought due to El Niño, as reservoirs have been pushed to record lows, according to reports. The city’s authority announced this week that residents would have to start rationing water as a result. 

The rationing itself came into effect on Thursday, with Bogotà and dozens of surrounding towns being divided into nine zones. Domestic running water is cut off for 24 hours in each zone on a specific rotation that resets every 10 days. This new rationing system is set to impact around 9 million people. 

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There are additional plans to ensure that hospitals and schools have a continuous water supply, according to authorities. 

The Chuza and San Rafael reservoirs, part of the Chingaza System which provides 70% of the city’s drinking water, are in critical positions according to local authorities. 

“Let’s not waste a drop of water in Bogotá at this time, that will help us so that these restrictions can be lifted more quickly or reduced,” Mayor Carlos Fernando Galán said in a news conference.

According to Stefano Pozzebon, writer for CNN, “It’s not unusual for cities in Latin America to face water crises. Bogotá joins Mexico City to its northwest, which could also be on the brink of running out of water, as the combination of climate change, El Niño, geography and rapid urban development put immense strain on its water resources. But this marks the first time in recent history that Bogotá has been forced to implement water rationing measures.”

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“Most cities around the world depend on aquifers for their water supplies. Bogota is different in that almost all our supply comes from surface waters like reservoirs, which are more susceptible to rain patterns,” said Armando Sarmiento, an ecology professor at Bogotá’s Javeriana University.

“It’s this dependence on rain that makes Bogotá particularly vulnerable to drought,” Sarmiento told CNN.

“Since last year, the city has experienced long dry periods due to the impact of El Niño,” according to local authorities.

Bogotá’s water rationing plans have been endorsed by the nation’s president. A civil authority tasked with protecting civil and human rights in Columbia, issues a statement this week that stated “a long-term reliable water supply is a basic human right, and the environment ministry in February launched a campaign with the hashtag #ElNinoNoEsUnJuego (El Niño is not a game) to warn Colombians not to underestimate the crisis.”

“We got to a point where we can’t expect water to come down like it used to be if we don’t respect the reservoirs’ natural supply cycle, if we don’t respect water’s natural cycle,” Sarmiento, the ecologist, told CNN.