Puerto Rico Drought Leaves 140,000 Without Running Water
Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency on Monday after a severe drought on the island left 140,000 people without access to running water, despite the necessary role that hand washing and hygiene plays in stopping the novel coronavirus, as The Independent reported.
The island will start water rationing on July 2, as 26 percent of the island is under a severe drought and 60 percent is under a moderate drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor, as The Independent reported. According to Governor Wanda Vasquez, that means 21 of 78 municipalities are affected by the severe drought while another 29 are affected by the moderate drought.
The rationing will affect 140,000 clients of the water service, including some in the capital of San Juan, according to The Associated Press, as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority starts to shut off water for certain blocks of the day.
That means some residents will be without water for 24 hours every other day as part of strict rationing measures. Puerto Rico's utilities company asked residents not to stockpile excessive amounts of water because it would exacerbate an already bad situation.
There will also be 23 water trucks spread across the most impacted parts of the island. Officials asked that anyone seeking water from the trucks wear a mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines, according to The Associated Press.
Some residents in the northeastern part of the state were already rationing water earlier in June.
Many residents rely on a system of reservoirs in Puerto Rico for water, but several have not been dredged for years, leaving sediment to collect and allowing the excess loss of water, according to The Hill. The water rationing efforts will target households connected to the Carraízo reservoir, one of 11 that Puerto Rico's government operates. It has not been dredged since the late 1990s.
Five other reservoirs are under a state of observation. Officials have already taken other measures, including activating water wells and transferring more than 30,000 clients from Carraízo to another reservoir, according to the AP.
"We're asking people to please use moderation," said Doriel Pagán, executive director of Puerto Rico's Water and Sewer Authority, adding that she could not say how long the rationing measures will last, as The Independent reported.
She told The Associated Press that the utility company is talking with FEMA about a $300 million dredging investment. But that project will not bring any short-term relief since the process is long and requires various studies for FEMA to approve the project.
According to The Associated Press, the upcoming water rationing efforts will target households connected to the Carraízo reservoir, one of 11 that Puerto Rico's government operates. Pagán said that reservoir was last dredged in the late 1990s. Five other reservoirs are under a state of observation. Officials have already taken other measures, including activating water wells and transferring more than 30,000 clients from Carraízo to another reservoir.
As the U.S. Drought Monitor map shows, much of the drought blankets the southern and eastern parts of the island, including San Juan and Ponce. The southern part of Puerto Rico was hit by a powerful 6.4 earthquake at the beginning of 2020.
The current drought in Puerto Rico came on quickly. In mid-May, no parts of the island, which is a U.S. territory, were under drought, though some spots were abnormally dry. Now, a long dry spell has left many parts of the island with four to eight inches less rain than normal over the past 30 days, according to The Weather Channel.
Residents in most areas will be prohibited from excessive use of water such as watering gardens during daylight hours, filling pools, and using a hose or non-recycled water to wash cars, as The Independent reported.
Some thunderstorms are expected for today and tomorrow. "However, we are not expecting enough rain ... to solve the problem we're seeing," said Fernanda Ramos, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service in San Juan, as The Independent reported.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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