No quick end in sight to Uruguay’s water crisis

By Santiago Carbone

Montevideo, Jul 12 (EFE).- Uruguay is enduring its most severe water crisis on record due to a prolonged drought that has left this capital’s main reservoir almost completely dry.

Even though water levels at the Paso Severino reservoir have increased in recent days, it currently only has just over 1.5 million cubic meters (53 million cubic feet) of reserves, compared with 67 million cubic meters in November 2022.

Amid the crisis, the Santa Lucia River and the Rio de la Plata are now the two main sources of water for the departments (provinces) of Montevideo and Canelones.

That water is first purified at the Aguas Corrientes water treatment facility, a plant located 56 kilometers (35 miles) from Montevideo that supplies potable water to around half of the South American country’s population of 3.5 million.

The use of supplies from those two rivers has caused the amount of sodium chloride in Uruguayan tap water to rise.

The Public Health Ministry had authorized those higher levels in April, but it also simultaneously issued different recommendations concerning consumption of that water by children, pregnant women and people with certain illnesses.


On June 19, the Uruguayan government declared a water emergency for the Montevideo metropolitan area.

Earlier, in late 2022, an emergency was declared for livestock farming, dairy farming, horticulture, fruit growing and agriculture due to a prolonged drought.

The government also has subsidized purchases of bottled water by vulnerable, low-income sectors and lowered the price of that product by around 30 percent by making it exempt from taxes.

In addition, the government has announced the creation of an Emergency Water Fund and the construction of new infrastructure to transport water from the San Jose River to the Aguas Corrientes treatment plant.


In one positive development in recent days, rainfall between July 4 and July 7 boosted fresh water reserves by 39.2 millimeters (1.54 inches) in Paso Severino and by 40.5 mm in the part of the Santa Lucia River nearest to Aguas Corrientes.

Nevertheless, the weather forecast for July, August and September indicates that rainfall will be lower than normal in southern Uruguay.


At the political level, the ruling, center-right National Party and the opposition mutually blame one another failing to complete infrastructure projects in the past.

Meanwhile, in a survey conducted by the Factum polling group between June 21-28, 41 percent of respondents said the current government and previous administrations are to blame for the water crisis.

On the international front, the presidents of Argentina and Venezuela spoke in recent days about the situation in Uruguay and even offered assistance.

Argentina’s left-leaning President Alberto Fernandez, however, sparked the ire of his Uruguayan counterpart when he said in a press conference that no water is flowing from taps in Montevideo.

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