Drying Caribbean

Warnings from international climate experts were there, at least a year ago. The forecast was clear: climate change would bring fresh water shortages to the Caribbean in the next five to 10 years.

24 de abril 2019


Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are three of the countries that already face a growing drought and water shortage, largely due to historically poor management of supplies by its governments. None of the countries have plans to face this anticipated water crisis, according to a cross-border investigation led by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico, and in which journalists from Diario Libre, in the Dominican Republic and Le Nouvelliste, in Haiti, participated.

In Puerto Rico, 18 months after Hurricane María, the effect of the storm on reservoir sedimentation has not yet been studied. The fragmentation of responsibilities, the lack of monitoring and the inaction of the government of Puerto Rico, coupled with a "request" from the federal government to keep low levels at the Guajataca dam — which serves more than 200,000 people —, caused a rationing that began two months ago for the northwestern part of the island.

In Haiti, the country with the most critical situation due to its levels of poverty and the almost total absence of infrastructure, the illegal exploitation of wells, the contamination of water, the lack of a regulatory legal framework and misgovernment are the main problems that affect the availability of the vital resource.

The largest source of water supply for both community consumption and industrial and agricultural use in the metropolitan area of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, comes from the aquifer that extends under the Cul-de-Sac plain. Unpermitted extraction is increasing there, while authorities do not keep records about the amount of water they extract daily.

In the Dominican Republic, the illegal extraction of sand and other materials for the construction industry has destroyed the natural channel of some rivers and has eroded and affected the water table.

This has caused waters to flood the neighborhoods located adjacent to the rivers and has prompted a lower retention capacity of the liquid in the channels. The lack of supervision, and occasional collusion by Dominican authorities, has resulted in the degradation of watersheds that supply drinking water to the capital and other highly-populated regions, some of which have been facing a drought for six months.

The investigations were possible in part with the support of Para la Naturaleza, Fundación Segarra Boerman e Hijos, and Open Society Foundations.

Historias en la serie

Poor Management of Water Sources Aggravates Impact of the Drought in the Caribbean

April 24, 2019

In the region, the smaller islands have limited freshwater natural resources and some use expensive and polluting desalination plants. Although the larger islands have abundant rivers and aquifers, their reserves have diminished. In addition, the rise of the sea level, associated with climate change, exposes aquifers to contamination due to saline intrusion.

Government of Puerto Rico Drained the Guajataca Dam at the Height of the Drought

April 24, 2019

In the midst of the growing drought brought on by climate change, the fragmentation of responsibilities, the lack of monitoring and the inaction of the government of Puerto Rico, coupled with a “petition” to release water from a dam by the U.S. government, cause negligence in water management.

Out-of-control Water Extraction in Haiti

April 25, 2019

While the State does nothing to solve access to drinking water for more than 1.5 million Haitians in the metropolitan area of ​​Port-au-Prince, private companies extract water from the main aquifer that supplies the region free of charge and uncontrollably. It’s water that does not pass through quality controls and is then sold to citizens at an inaccessible cost to many. This main source of drinking water, Cul-de-Sac, is contaminated. In Haiti, misgovernment, the lack of economic resources and abuse by companies come together in a fatal combination for a large part of the population that — for the most part lacks sanitary services or drinking water — becomes part of the vicious cycle of exploitation of the resource at a time when climate change extends the drought periods in the Caribbean, a joint investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism and Le Nouvelliste revealed. The number of those lacking access to drinking water in the entire country is almost 6 million, which represents more than 40% of the population.

Autores en la serie

Centro de Periodismo Investigativo

Centro de Periodismo Investigativo

El Centro de Periodismo Investigativo es una organización sin fines de lucro que reconoce que el requisito fundamental para las aspiraciones democráticas es que la ciudadanía esté bien informada y que existan entidades independientes con la capacidad de fiscalizar los poderes que accionan en la sociedad, sean públicos o privados.


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