Orange alert for water shortages in El Salvador

On Thursday the government declared an orange state of alert for water shortages throughout the country, which the government said were caused by climate change and the poor state of the country's systems for obtaining and distributing potable water.

The primary areas affected by the water shortages are the greater metropolitan area around San Salvador where the largest percentage of the country's population resides.   In recent months, there have been increasing scenes of protests where residents block major roads to highlight the fact that their neighborhoods have been without potable water for weeks or months.   Families are paying as much as $45 per month to buy water from private tank trucks when the public water supply disappears.

The government says that the country has received below average rainfall for the past four years.   Wells which supply the metropolitan area are producing water at reduced levels.

The country's water distribution system is showing the effects of years of lack of maintenance, investment and poor management by the country's water authority ANDA.

To address the water shortage, the country will be drilling new wells and investing in additional water tank trucks to bring water to affected communities when the pipes run dry.  In the press conference announcing the water emergency, president Sanchez Ceren announced that ANDA would be authorized to spend $3.5 million on new wells and other infrastructure in the next three months.

The government will also be taking measures to reduce water consumption and save the scarce resource.

One of the identified problems faced by metropolitan San Salvador is the problem of rainwater run-off.   Because the metropolitan area is so densely populated with so much pavement and impermeable ground surfaces, rainfall during the wet seasons of the year runs off rather than sinking into the soil to replenish groundwater supplies.

As the rainy season approaches beginning in May, families are encouraged to use rainwater capture systems to fill tanks for bathing and laundry and other uses other than drinking.  

The water shortages have also highlighted the status of a proposed new national water law which has been stuck in the National Assembly for year.