Venezuelans are already living in darkness after the country’s electrical system collapsed, but now millions of people, residents of Caracas and other major cities whose water systems are tied to the power grid, are completely without clean water.
The Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow reported Monday that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is now instituting a rationing program for the country’s meager supply of electricity, allowing residents to turn their lights on for only a half hour at a time for the next 30 days.
But the same grid and now-defunct hydro-electric power plant that powers homes in Caracas also powers the country’s water system, and without electricity, local pumping stations simply won’t work, according to Yahoo News. The government is providing some residents with water from pumping trucks, but it’s simply not enough to address Venezuelan’s meager needs.
“[P]eople try to find water wherever they can: from springs, leaky pipes, gutters, government-provided tankers and the little that flows through the Guiare River in Caracas,” Yahoo reports.
“We fill up from a well near here but we don’t know if its drinkable. But we’re using it,” one resident of Caracas, interviewed by Yahoo, added.
More comprehensive reports about water shortages from earlier in March reveal that the Guiare River, where many desperate Venezuelans are getting water, is fetid and heavily polluted. The Associated Press reported back in January that Venezuelans who “farm” the river for “treasures” risk life and limb, and that the river serves as a “drain for rainwater from the streets and sewers, along with industrial waste.”
Much of the river is simply an open sewer. Maduro promised a river cleanup back in 2005, but the cleanup never came.
A few lucky Venezuelans live in areas where local officials have released cleaner water from pipe systems and reservoirs, Reuters reports, but the water isn’t safe to consume: “it was being carried through unsanitary pipes and should only be used to flush toilets or scrub floors.”
“‘Caracas needs 20,000 liters of water per second from nearby watersheds to maintain service,’ said Jose de Viana, an engineer who ran Caracas’ municipal water authority in the 1990s,” according to Reuters. At best estimates, de Viana added, pumps are able to push through around 13,000 liters of water per second. But during blackouts, the supply “halts completely” and the periods of electricity are too short to get the pumps back up to full speed.
The water crisis isn’t new, though. Venezuela experienced a similar crisis in 2016, and like the electic grid, the country’s pump system is so poorly maintained, its failure was inevitable. And not only is the government ill-prepared to fix the situation, it lacks personnel with the expertise to maintain and repair the system. Of the 2.7 million people who have left Venezuela in recent years, Yahoo reports, 25,000 of those have been from the country’s electricity sector.
Maduro and other Venezuelan officials did not address the ongoing humanitarian crisis, however, in public appearances on Tuesday. Instead, they championed a Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling that stripped opposition leader Juan Guaido of his legislative immunity, which will likely result in the socialist Guiado being arrested and prosecuted for daring to oppose Maduro’s regime.
Maduro continues to blame the country’s electric grid failure on foreign hackers from the United States.