Business & Economy

Is restoring Venezuela’s water service in 2022 a viable goal?

By Carlos Seijas Meneses

Caracas, Nov 1 (EFE).- At a fire hydrant in Caracas, 65-year-old Angel Pulgar collects water in a bucket to take to his home, where the pipes have been dry since March.

Though fed up with that routine, he doubts normal water service will be restored before year’s end, as President Nicolas Maduro promised in August. Experts are skeptical as well.

“No, I just don’t (believe it), because everything they say is like a lie, (…) it’s all promise, promise, promise, and nothing gets done,” Pulgar, who regularly collects water at that spot, told EFE.

In August, Maduro set a goal of restoring public services – including potable water – before year’s end. He also called on the population to report outages in their communities and on government ministers and state utilities to remedy problems when they arise.

Jose Maria de Viana, an engineer and former president of state water utility Hidrocapital, told EFE it is technically impossible to restore service by the end of 2022.

He said it will take two to three years to fix the problem and that an investment outlay of $2 billion will be needed, saying a failure to perform regular maintenance and repair work had caused infrastructure to deteriorate.

Also contributing to the problem, the “people who are managing the system don’t have the technical competencies to understand it,” he added.

Caracas’ public water system, the country’s largest, supplied 20,000 liters (5,280 gallons) per second in 1999 but now supplies only around 12,000 liters per second because repairs were not made in a timely manner, De Viana said.

Additionally, the three large reservoirs that provide emergency, 15-day backup for Caracas when there are problems with the main water supply system are currently out of service.

Jesus Armas, head of the non-governmental organization Monitor Ciudad, told EFE that, on average, there is no water for 109.2 hours of a 168-hour week.

He said the official target is “unfeasible” and that full recovery of normal service will take three years with the leveraging of all necessary financial, logistical and human resources.

Meanwhile, outages continue to affect the population, who must adapt their daily life in accordance with water service times and factor in the additional inconvenience of seeking out that precious resource elsewhere.

According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Public Services, an NGO, residents of Caracas and 11 other cities obtain water from tanker trucks, purchase large jugs of bottled water or get it from other sources (wells, streams or the home of a family member or friend) and store it in their homes in tanks or plastic containers called “pipotes.”

Yoleiker Alvarado, a 20-year-old independent worker, spent all of last Thursday gathering water from a hydrant located two streets from his home.

“If it weren’t for that (source) here, we’d die. Because there’s no water anywhere … I work, but I have to look for water because what do we do without it? … Water used to arrive at your house, but now I’ve been looking for water for like two years,” he said.

For his part, Water Attention Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres recently said that 52,081 of the 68,206 complaints his agency has received to date have been resolved, or 76 percent of the total.

By November, the percentage of resolved cases should climb to more than 80 percent, he added. EFE


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