On August 17 Cuba’s Civil Defense General Staff issued this statement:
- “During this rainy season, generally defined as May through October, the lack of precipitation continues to be evident. Reservoirs are well below capacity and underground water sources are falling as compared to previous months. In addition, high temperatures are causing increased evaporation. These factors are limiting water availability for the population, agriculture, industry and service providers, thus implying the need for serious efforts to minimize usage, as has been reiterated by the National Institute of Water Resources.”
- “Cuba’s Meteorology Institute forecasts indicate that the current situation of severe drought and limited hurricane activity will continue through the end of the year. This scarcity of rainfall will furthermore affect the availability of water during the coming dry season, which begins in November.”
- “To minimize the impact of this danger, vigilance and monitoring of the evolving situation, risk assessment, timely communication with the population and appropriate authorities must increase.”
- “For this reason, seasonal working groups have been activated on the national, provincial and municipal levels, with the responsibility of evaluating and supervising the implementation of measures outlined in disaster mitigation plans and water usage by state and non-state institutions, prioritizing the implementation of programs meant to reduce losses, with the rehabilitation of water networks and repair of leaks, as well as the reorganization of water distribution in accordance with conditions in each province.”
- “Leadership bodies and the population are directed to remain alert as to the evolution of this situation, to complete tasks ordered by competent authorities and use water in a rational manner.”
Reuters reports that the drought already has damaged agriculture and left more than a million people relying on trucked-in water to survive in record summer heat. The problems are exacerbated by leaks in water pumped from its reservoirs and little irrigation of farmland with outdated and inefficient systems.
In addition, says Reuters, “Cuban authorities appear increasingly alarmed by the situation, which could lead to wider rationing in major cities and hard choices on where water should be allocated with winter planting, the tourism season and sugar milling all beginning in November.”
The U.S. should be developing a plan to aid Cuba in dealing with this national emergency.