Colombia’s capital rations water for millions as reservoirs run dry

Millions of residents in the Colombian capital city of Bogotá started rationing drinking water on Thursday as the city’s reservoirs hit drastically low levels. The rations were announced a day after the city’s mayor posted aerial footage of two primary reservoirs surrounded by dried embankments. 

The footage posted by Mayor Carlos Galán shows the San Rafael and Chuza reservoirs, which make up the Chingaza water system. Galán said that the system supplies the capital city with 70% of its drinking water.

“Please, let’s save water,” Galán posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, alongside the video. 

Bogotá Aqueduct and Sewer Company said Bogotá and the municipalities that receive water from the company “will have alternating suspensions or rationing of drinking water due to the low level of reservoirs.” Those restrictions began Thursday morning and are being implemented in shifts, with only certain neighborhoods having to ration for a 24-hour period. 

According to the mayor’s office, the region’s drinking water supply system is made up of three systems with eight total reservoirs – all of which feed into the aqueduct company. That system supplies water to more than 10 million people

The low reservoir levels come as Colombia continues to suffer from “long weeks without rain due to the impact of the El Niño phenomenon,” the mayor’s office said. Many other cities and countries have been facing a similar issue, including Mexico City, one of the most populated cities in the world. Reservoirs rely on precipitation to refill. 

The Chingaza system depicted in Galán’s video has “the most critical state of water levels,” his office said. As of April 7, water storage in that system was at less than 17% capacity. The northern reservoir system, which includes the Tominé and Neusa reservoirs and supplies 25% of Bogotá’s water supply, barely reached 54.23% capacity. The southern system, which accounts for 5% of the water supply, has less than 45% capacity. 

Along with the rations, the office is also advising people to reuse rainwater, reduce shower time, minimize clothes and car washing, and reduce garden irrigation. 

“The call is to take care of every drop of water,” the mayor’s office said. 

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