Montevideo is suffering from a severe drinking water shortage as the nation faces its worst drought in 74 years. Over 1.3 million residents in the capital of Uruguay are at risk. The scorching heat and a prolonged dry spell have depleted the city’s reservoirs.
To combat this crisis, the government has initiated drilling operations in the city center to tap into groundwater reserves. However, the situation has led to public outrage, sparking protests throughout the city. State-owned water company, Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE), resorted to mixing salty water with fresh water in June, causing health concerns among vulnerable populations. Although the health minister stated that the mixed water is generally safe, people with hypertension, kidney disease, and pregnant women are advised to avoid tap water.
The water scarcity issue in Uruguay is further complicated by claims that agribusinesses and industries are exacerbating the crisis. Water diversion by agribusinesses for irrigation purposes and the excessive use of water in factories and rice-growing companies have been cited as contributing factors. Approximately 80% of the country’s freshwater is allocated to agriculture and industry, leaving limited resources for personal use and ecological balance.
As a response to the emergency, the government has declared tax exemptions on bottled water and is constructing a new reservoir. Additionally, drinking water is being distributed to vulnerable groups, including schools, nursing homes, and hospitals. However, the situation remains dire, with production halts and unemployment rising in various sectors.
Uruguay has been the first country in the world to state a right of every citizen to clean drinking water. Since 2004, the country has put lots of efforts into providing clean water to all regions and citizens – and can now only keep up the water supply in the capital by mixing it with contaminated and salty water from the Plate river.
What a sad and difficult situation for the people there!
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