Caracas water: Glad to have been wrong, sad to have been right

One of the first posts on this website was about the ongoing crisis in Caracas’s drinking water system. The drought last year made the crisis more obvious, but as I said at the time, there was a structural deficit in the system, and few of the government’s actions meant to conserve water really amounted to anything. The drought ended with a vengeance, as the deep El Niño converted into the most severe La Niña in a long time. Over 100,000 Venezuelans were displaced by floods. In terms of reservoir levels, this was probably the best-case scenario.

The most recent reservoir report from Hidrocapital shows that the two smaller reservoirs, Lagartijo and Taguaza, reached their highest levels in years in the autumn rains. That’s good news.

However the bigger one, Camatagua, is a problem. The numbers on the vertical axis represent how many million cubic meters of water are in the reservoir (note that on the original, they have a typo — they say it’s thousands, but it’s not). The place is “full” when it’s around 1,400 million. A year ago it bottomed out around 450 million. The rains brought it back to more than 1,000 million, a change of almost 600 million — that’s almost twice as much as the increase registered in the very rainy year of 2006. This is great news and I’m glad to have been wrong with my prognostications of doom.

However I was also right about something. The rate of decline in the reservoir is now back to something similar to all other years. Which means that for all the incredible rains, Camatagua is only back to where it was a year ago. The rain only made up for the drought. The reservoir is still way less than full — and only an asshole would wish for another rainy season like the one just passed. The city still needs to either learn to conserve or needs new water supplies. The government is building new reservoirs, but they are behind schedule. Meanwhile population in Caracas keeps growing, despite some notable departures.