We had a very dry Wet Season, for the last two years rain fall has been below average and the rivers are very low. El Niño is the main cause but deforestation and climate change is factored in also. It’s not only on the Azuero Peninsula it’s throughout the country, and we have three to five months of this to get through until the rains return.
This is an info-graphic from the Ministry of the Environment/Ministerio de Ambiente. The areas in purple are the worst affected areas, it’s difficult to see, but these sections had 45% less rainfall during Wet Season. The areas in bright orange had an estimated 35% less rain. We live in the bright orange area on the right side of the peninsula jutting down from the isthmus. Of the 44 rivers in the Province of Los Santos, where we live, 30 have run dry and the rest are very low. Many farmers that use river water for their cattle don’t have any left to give their livestock.
The Government is banning the use of potable water for any recreational activities but they are also leaving the decision to hold Carnaval up to the mayors of the districts. Carnaval is a big money-maker and many businesses rely on the celebration and the people it brings. The population during that time grows up to five times the norm. In any given year when there has been plenty of rainfall, there are intermittent water and power outages. This year with a 13 month drought ongoing there is even more pressure on electrical capacity and drinking water.
There is a great deal of controversy over the culecos/water trucks for Carnaval. These trucks are usually set up in during the day time celebrations and spray water at people. This is to try to keep down the human stench of the celebration that happens when you get a large group of people drinking; if you know what I mean. The trucks used river water in the past but, for several years the Ministerio de Salud/Minister of Health has deemed that only potable water be used. When people in various towns don’t have access to clean water and animals and crops are struggling in the heat and dryness, it’s difficult for some people to understand the how and the why of using perfectly good drinking water to spray down a bunch of drunks. The ministerio has decreed that no potable drinking water will be used for the trucks. Water will be taken from the rivers, which will be pretty difficult considering how low the rivers in our area are. It has also been suggested that ocean water be used instead, we have plenty of that around.
As a consequence of the drought, we’ll be expecting power outages and lack of water once again this year over the four or five days of Carnaval. Those visiting our area need to know enough to stock up on bottled water…in the campo.