For some Puerto Ricans, five months into the disaster caused by Hurricane Maria, things seem to be getting worse each day. Many of the island’s residents remain without power and have absolutely no idea when it will be restored. On Thursday, San Juan area residents suffered yet another major blackout after two power plants shut down. And now, it looks like water supplies have become an issue on parts of the island with officials possibly planning to ration water starting next week.
Here’s some information obtained Thursday evening by CBS reporter David Begnaud.
Because the water production is low in Guajataca Lake, which is located on the western side of the island, government officials may need to limit the amount of running water in homes in order to preserve water supplies. This is a nightmare. And it is both unimaginable and unacceptable. Remember that in late January, FEMA decided to end food and water aid to Puerto Rico—even though many people on the island still needed both. Of course, bottled water is not a substitute for running water in the home. But its at least a temporary solution, especially when natural water sources dry up. So for those individuals and families that will be impacted should this rationing occur, it seems as if they will have been failed, yet again, by a federal government that has botched this recovery effort in a major way.
If authorities do determine that water rationing is necessary, they could implement changes as early as next Friday. Puerto Ricans living in the five affected municipalities would have running water in their homes every third day. That means a household might get a week's worth of access to indoor running water only on Monday and Thursday, for instance.
What is likely to worsen this issue is that there is no guarantee that people who are experiencing rationed water will have access to safe drinking water on the days that their taps are turned off. People becoming ill after contact with contaminated water is already a problem in Puerto Rico (Daily Kos’s own Chris Reeves wrote about his experience with it here). But we haven’t heard any kind of official response or plan to address it. In fact, we haven’t heard anything recently about getting clean water to the island. Better yet, when was the last time Donald Trump even mentioned Puerto Rico at all—save for some pathetic reference during the State of the Union address?
Similar dangers are present for people cut off from a sanitary water supply. People who are desperate will sometimes seek to secure water from unsafe sources — indeed, there are already documented cases of this happening in Puerto Rico.
And it can be prohibitively expensive for the economically disadvantaged to supplement a government water ration with store-bought bottled water. Outside of donations, it's unclear as of now what options Puerto Rican residents living under a water ration would have to ensure adequate drinking water on the days their water supply is shut off.
Those of us who have been watching from afar and listening to our friends and family on the island have been screaming this same thing at the top of our lungs for months: This is a MAJOR disaster. The hurricane was horrible and caused widespread, devastating damage but it is the failure and corruption of the government that is turning this into a catastrophic situation. Every day this situation seems to worsen for the most marginalized and they have no choices. They are being held hostage by our government’s inaction and ineptitude. We must continue to put pressure on elected officials, be sure to donate when and where we can, support Puerto Ricans both on the island and on the mainland and amplify their voices and experiences. Those in power may not care but we can show that there are many of us who stand in solidarity with Puerto Rico and we will not accept this. The recovery of the island likely depends on us doing so.