In the midst of economic tragedy, Venezuelan news in the past two years has primarily focused on President Maduro’s administration, the inflation of the bolivar, and the overwhelming shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities.
Under the surface — and not nearly reported as often — a drought has been festering in Venezuela. Over the past three years, Venezuelans have watched their national aqueducts slowly deplete right along with prescription medications and toilet paper.
Only now, the drought will likely become more severe because of recent weather patterns. As FOX News Latino reported, the El Niño weather phenomenon is causing a disruptive change in water flow specifically in South America: the northern half of the continent will experience extreme flooding while the southern half (where Venezuela is located) will experience even drier conditions than before.
The effects of the drought have become apparent in the country’s 18 largest reservoirs, which are reportedly “very close to the red line” and already at “critical levels,” according to Water Minister Ernesto Paiva. In nine of Venezuela’s 24 states, the drought has reached levels of “extreme to severe.”
Residents have been dealing with the effects of water shortages for quite some time now, and it’s easy to imagine how disruptive the lack of fresh water can be. In the U.S., the common seasonal problem of frozen water pipes is well underway and will likely affect an estimated 250,000 American households this winter.
But that’s nothing close to what Venezuelans are now encountering. Low water supplies have actually caused the Venezuelan government to start rationing water for five to six days a week in certain areas. As the Latin American Herald Tribune reported, residents in Caracas and surrounding cities have already learned to collect and conserve water during the morning hours; authorities turn off the taps in the afternoon.
The lack of a functional water system is disruptive for any country, but as a study in Nature discovered, it’s not entirely unexpected in Venezuela: Countries with a lower food production and countries that experience a severe and sudden economic crisis are more at risk of developing impaired abilities to harvest clean water. If the Venezuelan economy hadn’t begun falling two years ago as the price of oil fell, the country probably would have been able to handle a natural disaster, like a drought, before it turned into a critical situation.
Right now, it’s hard to decide which issue deserves more attention: the country’s still-climbing 720% inflation rate, or the drought that will only get worse in the coming months.