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WASHINGTON, Jan 21 2017 – Donald Trump changed the image at the top of his new @POTUS account after Twitter users spotted it was from Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

Mr Trump inherited the official presidential account as he was sworn in as America’s 45th president.

The original image showed flag-waving crowds in front of the US Capitol.

But it was changed about an hour later, amid claims from Mr Trump’s opponents that crowds at his inauguration were not as large as in 2013.

Trump supporters on social media branded claims Mr Trump was trying to make his inauguration appear better-attended “pathetic” and a “non-story”.

The header image has since changed again from a stock picture of an American flag to an image of the new president gazing out of a window.

Mr Trump’s @POTUS account has gained millions of followers since its launch, as all 13.6m followers of Barack Obama’s account – now archived at @POTUS44 – are in the process of being ported over to the new Trump account.

The new president’s first tweet was a link to a Facebook post of the full text of his inauguration address.

His former twitter account still has more than 20m followers.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Trump said his inauguration would have “an unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout”.

But the number of people who turned out to view his midday swearing-in appeared to be smaller than the estimated two million who turned out for Obama.

Images of the National Mall, taken from the top of the Washington Monument, showed sections of the white matting laid down to protect the grass were largely empty.

There will be no official estimate of the crowd’s size to settle the issue.

For decades, the US National Park Service provided official crowd estimates for gatherings on the National Mall.

But the agency stopped providing counts after organisers at 1995’s Million Man March threatened a lawsuit. They complained that the National Park Service undercounted attendance at the march.

More people turned out to witness Mr Trump and his entourage travelling along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House on Friday afternoon.

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ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, Dec 15 2016 – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has approved a grant that will assist the Government of Grenada in its efforts to improve the efficiency of the country’s water and sewerage network.

The Government is proposing to expand the St. George’s Water Supply System and make improvements to the sewerage system in St. George’s.

A feasibility study will be undertaken to inform how these improvements may best be facilitated. This study will update a sewerage project draft design report; prepare detailed designs for the upgrade of the Carenage/Lagoon Road Wastewater Collection System; examine the most feasible option for the expansion of the Southern St. George’s Water Supply; and formulate designs for the recommended solution.

In addition to the technical assistance grant provided by CDB — utilising resources allocated from UKCIF — Grenada’s National Water and Sewerage Authority will contribute to the project. The total estimated cost of the technical assistance is £834,300.

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Professor John Agard (left) in conversation with IPCC Vice Chair Thelma Krug and Deputy Director and Science Advisor of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr Ulric Trotz - (Photo by: Desmond Brown)

By Desmond Brown – Executive Editor

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Dec 07 2016 – A Trinidadian scientist has a very simple message for Barbados as the country grapples with chronic water shortages brought on by a prolonged drought: fix the pipes!

Professor of Tropical Island Ecology at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine John Agard said before the authorities here worry about the possible impact of climate change on the water supply, they should first seek to curtail the amount of water being lost through leakage.

“Why don’t they fix the pipes? Do that first before you worry about climate change, because with that alone you are losing more water than you will lose from the decrease in precipitation,” Agard said at an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outreach event for the Caribbean held last week in Jamaica.

He cited a European Union-funded Global to Local Socio-Economic Climate Change Project which states that the anticipated ten to 11 per cent decline in precipitation due to the effect of climate change was far less than the amount of water being lost through leaky mains.

“Water leakage from pipes underground in Barbados is more than 40 per cent, and therefore they can manage climate change very well by saving water leakage underground.

“These are the kinds of lessons that we should act upon,” said Agard, a lead author of the fifth assessment report on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He said the EU-funded study also placed Barbados on the list of the ten most water-impoverished countries in the world, adding that in addition to being in this grouping, a decrease in precipitation for the island would naturally “be terrifying”.

Agard explained that “Barbados has very good numbers to run models” because every house and every factory is metred.

“They know exactly how much water is
produced and how much water is used, because in Barbados they send everybody a bill for their water, so they measure everything.”

But he said the leakage of water underground due to old and rotting pipes was not unique to Barbados.

“I would be shocked if it’s any different in Jamaica or in Trinidad. Again, half of the water in Trinidad and throughout the whole Caribbean is leaking out from the pipes underground,” he said.

Meantime, Agard said the drought situation could prove to be a great “opportunity” for agriculture in Barbados.

“A decrease in precipitation means we should be looking for drought resistant varieties now,” he said, pointing to a project in Jamaica where a PhD student at the University of the West Indies had been studying many varieties of drought resistant sweet potatoes.

“You will get a decrease in the crop yield, however, something interesting was discovered. Because you have more carbon dioxide concentration in the air and plants take in carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide is actually a stimulant. So, if you have enough irrigation, you will actually get a higher yield of sweet potatoes and you need to compare the varieties to see which gives you the highest yield.

“So, there is opportunity, you could actually get more yield if you have enough irrigation because carbon dioxide acts as a stimulant and makes sweet potatoes grow faster. And there are many crops like that,
that we have to, with knowledge, turn it around and take advantage and plant more drought resistant varieties,” Agard added.

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Dec 05 2016 – Health authorities are awaiting the outcome of tests done by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) after an eight-year-old boy died and his 11-year-old sibling deemed to be “brain dead”.

Public Health Minister Dr. George Norton told the Guyana-based Demerara Waves online publication that health officials suspect that toxicity of a waterway in Region 7 (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) may have caused the death of a boy and the illness to his brother.

He said based on symptoms and an autopsy, medical experts have ruled out an infection such as meningitis but rather the possible consumption of water containing toxic chemicals.

“The symptoms that the boy has shown speak of a pathology of the brain but not necessarily an infection and the physician is saying that it can be because of some toxicity and she came to the idea that it is similar to that of cyanide. Now mining is going on in the area and we did not rule out that it could have been the utilization of contaminated water,” Dr. Norton told Demerara Waves.

Dr. Norton, who on Sunday led a high-level team of experts from the health sector and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to ascertain the possible cause of the death and illness, said the cause of death is cerebral edema (swelling of the brain), malaria and haemorrhagic broncho-pneumonia.

Specimens have been taken and are to be sent to CARPHA for further testing.

Dr. Norton said that the boys had gone hunting two weeks ago and days after returning one of them complained of headache, neck pain, cough and fever.

The 11-year-old boy later presented mild symptoms and he was rushed to the hospital in the capital where he had told health workers that he did not want to die like his brother, Dr. Norton said.

The Public Health Minister said no other member of the boys’ immediate family has shown similar symptoms.

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PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Nov 22 2016 – Auke Piek, a 44-year-old Dutch engineer, says he has a solution to the Caribbean’s worst drought in half a century — and it lies hundreds of miles away in the tropical rain forests of Suriname.

This week, a boat will tow a giant bag made from PVC-coated fabric with enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool from Suriname to drought-stricken Barbados and Curacao. It will be a test run for a technology Piek said he wants to expand to other Caribbean islands, and eventually, as far afield as the Middle East.

“Water is our blue gold,” said Erlyn Power, Suriname representative for Piek’s company, Amazone Resources. “I visit islands where people are having their water turned off and here we have so much of it that it’s just flowing into the sea.”

drought that started early last year in the Caribbean shrank reservoirs across the region, forcing utilities from Trinidad & Tobago to Jamaica to ration water. For some islands, such as Cuba, it was the worst drought in more than 100 years. And this may just be the start. The Barbados Water Authority, which signed a memorandum of understanding for the test run but is not buying the initial shipment, said in a statement that the accord it part of its long-term plans to tackle the impact of global warming.

Amazone has received the rights from Suriname’s government to pump water from the mouths of the Coppename and Suriname rivers, both of which meet World Health Organization standards, the company said. On Tuesday, the bag was being filled in the Suriname River, Piek said at a ceremony. The trip to Barbados was expected to take five or six days.

If the test run is successful, the company will order bigger bags, costing more than $500,000 each and capable of holding 16 times more water. The bags, which can be tethered together and pulled behind a boat, float near the ocean’s surface due to the difference in density between fresh and salt water.

Towing Icebergs

“Drought is hitting these countries more and more. In Barbados, some people only have water for a few hours a day,” said John Goedschalk, executive director of environmental group Conservation International’s Suriname office. “Is this the solution? I think we’d be a fool not to at least try it.”

Still, moving fresh water around the globe to dry regions has been proposed before, including plans to tow icebergs from the arctic to Africa, but mostly without success. Even versions of the bags Amazone is using date back decades, with failed proposals to use them to deliver water to southern California, Israel and the Gaza Strip, and Northern Cyprus.

Part of the difficulty is the question of control of water rights, said David Zetland, a professor at Leiden University College in the Netherlands who wrote “Living with Water Scarcity.”

“The problem with water is that it’s not managed through market mechanisms,” Zetland said. “It’s managed through the political process. Water is subject to uncertainty because some politician can come along and say ’I’m just not going to do it this way.”’

Suriname’s Abundance

Piek and private investors have spent around $2 million developing Amazone and plan to raise as much as $60 million next year when it wants to start making regular deliveries.

Although he declined to provide pricing and costs, Piek said it is cheaper than the desalination and water treatments plants governments in the Caribbean are considering building.

The Suriname government, which is trying to diversify a $4.9 billion economy that is forecast to contract this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, would make royalties off the water sales. Calls to President Desi Bouterse’s office were not returned.

“We have a nearly unlimited source of fresh water in Suriname and at the same time the world’s population is growing and more people will be in need of fresh water,” Piek said. “And here, the water is just flowing into the sea.” (AP)

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COTEAUX, Haiti, Oct 29 2016 — It’s been nearly a month since Hurricane Matthew tore through southern Haiti and people like Kettley Rosier and many of her neighbors still have to spend their meager savings to buy drinking water.

Reservoirs and pipe networks that people depend on for water across the country’s southern peninsula were contaminated or damaged by a combination of ocean storm surge and sewage from the overflowing latrines that are commonly used in rural Haiti. Wells were submerged by rivers that topped their banks and carried cholera bacteria, which epidemiologists suspect has sickened thousands of people since the Category 4 hurricane.

That means there is just not enough clean water to drink, let alone bathe, in places like the town of Coteaux, adding to the misery in an area where many people lost their homes, as well as the crops and livestock they need to survive.

An army of international relief teams have put enormous work into cleaning contaminated wells, distributing millions of water-purifying tablets and installing water treatment stations in areas that bore the worst of the hurricane. But it’s not yet enough.

Roughly 90 percent of the piped water supply systems in southwest Haiti were damaged by the storm that struck Oct. 4, according to Haiti’s National Water and Sanitation Directorate. Communal and private wells were contaminated across three provinces.

The extensive contamination of wells and the large amount of rain dumped by Hurricane Matthew created ideal conditions for spreading waterborne diseases including cholera, which causes rapid dehydration and can kill a human within hours if not treated. Authorities and aid groups say they have detected fecal matter and E. coli bacteria in drinking supplies.

“A lot of sources are contaminated at the moment,” said Leo Tremblay, a Canadian water and sanitation coordinator with Doctors Without Borders, which is overseeing a cholera treatment center in the village of Port-a-Piment and has sent staff by donkey to provide aid to remote mountain villages.

The humanitarian group said Friday its teams were seeing “deteriorating health conditions” in heavily hit zones.

In the devastated city of Jeremie, two water purification stations operated by French government emergency workers have so far transformed river water into 450,000 liters of potable water. But international specialists say many communities right along shorelines still aren’t getting adequate supplies.

Complicating matters, some storm victims are taking chances with their health.

In parts of the city of Les Cayes, people could be seen drinking straight from a contaminated well, bypassing treated supplies set up by a South Carolina-based organization known as Water Mission.

“Our bodies are used to dirty water. Maybe if we go to that new water place we’ll fall sick,” said Ephraim Bernard, a jobless 24-year-old standing by the contaminated well, located by a trash pit where three people were openly defecating on a recent morning.

Cholera was likely introduced to Haiti in 2010 by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal and it has killed about 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000. Haitians are generally aware of the risk and families often go to great lengths to ensure they stay healthy.

Yvette Dorival, a 22-year-old who lives in hills above the devastated beach town of Port Salut, is making two-hour treks three times a day to carry a jug filled at a water treatment site set up by Bomberos Unidos Sin Fronteras, a Spanish aid group. On the way, she passed Swiss Humanitarian Aid workers patching up a splintered water supply system.

“Why is it I only see the blan out here working hard to get water to us Haitians?” she asked, using the Creole word for foreigners.

There are some locals pushing to increase supplies, including Georges Edouard Elie, a businessman who owns a reverse osmosis plant in Les Cayes that produces Eau Kay water for a string of south coast settlements He is working with Arkansas-based nonprofit Heifer International to install a network of 1,500-gallon tanks that can be fed by water trucks.

He said he is motivated in part by anxiety that his business could be attacked if the situation doesn’t improve. “In my 24 years that I’ve been living here, this is the first time that I feel insecure,” he said.

Authorities say the water situation isn’t likely to be resolved soon. Jean-Martin Brault, a water and sanitation specialist with the World Bank, said it’s likely there will be a need to distribute water-purifying tablets and safe drinking water for six months in hard-hit zones.

Public services in general were shabby before the storm. Portions of some coastal towns in the southwest have gained piped water networks in recent years, though there is essentially no sewage treatment in the area. Only about a quarter of Haitians nationwide have access to flush toilets or latrines that hygienically separate waste from human contact, according to the World Bank.

Now local authorities see a rare chance to improve the situation. Matthew’s aftermath coincides with recently announced plans by the U.N. to invest more in clean water and sanitation systems as part of a new approach to dealing with cholera in Haiti.

“This is an opportunity for us to get our systems more up-to-date,” said Oswald Hyppolite, a water official for Haiti’s South province.

Sustained help couldn’t reach Rosier’s community soon enough. Vendors have raised the price of drinking water by 25 percent and her family was struggling to pay. “We need water to survive, just like anybody else,” she said. (AP)

“We’re tired of this,” Rosier said on a recent morning, scratching at skin irritated after bathing with murky well water. For drinking water, she has to buy small bags from street vendors. “God only knows when the good water will come back.”

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug 29 2016 – How to generate a viable environment in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to develop businesses around water and sanitation will be among matters discussed at a two-day conference that begins in Washington on Tuesday.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said the “Eye on Latin America and the Caribbean” event will bring together international experts to discuss water and sustainable development in the region.

The event is part of the Stockholm International Water Institute’s (SIWI) 2016 World Water Week with the presence of high-profile experts and panellists from government agencies, water utilities, international organizations, universities, private sector, and donor agencies, among others.

The IDB said the meeting will address four topics including water and sanitation as a business: the circular economy of water and exploring the opportunities and challenge to meet the water-related Sustainable Development Goal.

The IDB said the two-day event is being coordinated through its Water and Sanitation Division, in cooperation with FEMSA Foundation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and the World Bank Group among other international sponsors.

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MIAMI, Jun 23 2016 – Malteser International Americas, a Miami-based global humanitarian organization, has launched a fresh water program in the south west of Haiti where the worst drought in 35 years has put those already experiencing profound poverty and extreme vulnerability in further jeopardy.

“Malteser International Americas is improving the lives of more than 31,000 Haitians in Belle-Anse by connecting those suffering from drought with drinkable water, bettering their nutrition, and building their local capacities in the key areas of water, sanitation and hygiene, and the environment,” said Ravi Tripptrap, Executive Director of Malteser International Americas.

The drought – complicated by the tumultuous environmental effects of El Niño– has been detrimental to the livelihood of local Haitians who have suffered severe agricultural losses over the past few years due to lack of rainfall and prolonged drought. Lack of water and the drought-stricken land, nearly incapable of yielding crops, have left over 1.5 million Haitians severely food insecure and without water to drink and to irrigate crops.

In response, Malteser International Americas launched the fresh water program to create a lifeline to thirsty mouths and to dying crops across Belle-Anse with an earthquake-resistant aqueduct and irrigation system.

The goals of Malteser’s fresh water program for Haiti include: Strengthening local resilience to natural disasters and socioeconomic downturns by providing stable access to drinking water, and food; Improving the quality of nutrition by creating local partnerships and promoting the sustainable use of water, good hygiene practices, and sanitation; and Encouraging the sustainable use of natural resources (water, soil, forest).

To survive, many locals have turned to cutting down trees to use as charcoal for cooking. Selling this wood has become their primary means of making a living, but long-term environmental costs of deforestation are nearly irreparable. In response, Malteser’s new program will also focus on promoting alternatives to the sale and use of charcoal.

Malteser International Americas has been working in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010. Following initial emergency relief and support with rebuilding efforts, Malteser‘s programs have concentrated on building up the structural capacity in the areas of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), disaster preparedness, and food security. Malteser works closely with local partners in the urban slum areas of Cité Soleil and Tabarre, as well as the rural region of Belle-Anse.

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BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Mar 29 2016The authorities in St. Kitts and Nevis say specific measures are being taken to address the drought situation in the country, including several emergency projects.

“A $200,000 water supply improvement project brought relief to the residents of Saddlers who suffered for extended periods without running water at the peak of the drought,” Minister of Public Infrastructure, Posts, Urban Development and Transport, Ian Liburd said.

“A well was re-commissioned in Lodge Village and a pump was installed at Cedar Grove along with other system improvements island wide, aimed at bringing relief to our residents. These interventions reflected an accumulated cost of over $500,000.”

Another intervention is the drilling of wells to augment the Federation’s water supply.

“Owing to the delays in the Deep Well Drilling Project (signed in January 2015) our Government has therefore decided to procure the additional services of Ocean Earth Technologies (OET) to conduct a parallel project in order to provide another one million gallons of water per day in order to augment the Basseterre system which includes Lower Half Moon, Conaree, Bird Rock, Frigate Bay and the South East Peninsular areas,” Minister Liburd said.

“OET has experience in St. Kitts having done Phase I of an Hydro-geologic Evaluation of the Basseterre Valley Aquifer which it concluded in September 2009 under the Global Environmental Facility – Integrated Watershed and Coastal Area Management or as it is affectionately called the GEF-IWCAM Project.”

Another project that is earmarked to take place soon is a $600,000 Water Supply Improvement Project expected to build redundancy in the Phillips to Mansion water distribution system.

“Excess water from the Mansion Well will be pumped all the way to Phillips and Molineaux,” Minister Liburd said.  “This project will address the intermittent supply now being experienced within those communities.  Upon completion of the said project, farmers and other interests at higher elevations including the CARDI Research and Demonstration Farm and also the Primate Research Facility at Estridge are all expected to experience an improvement in the reliability of their water supplies.”

Other means of sourcing potable water includes the recommissioning of the desalination plant to Water Services.  According to Minister Liburd the machinery has been lying idle at the La Vallee Project for approximately 10 years.  He said that the plant has the capacity to produce 1.0 million gallons of water per day.

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SANTO DOMINGO, Jan 12 2016 – The recent lengthy drought in the Dominican Republic, which began to ease in late 2015, caused serious losses in agriculture and prompted national water rationing measures and educational campaigns.

But the most severe December-April dry season in the last 20 years helped convince the authorities to listen to the local scientific community in this Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

“The National Meteorology Office (ONAMET) actually benefited because the authorities and key sectors like agriculture and water paid more attention to us,” said Juana Sille, an expert on drought, which was a major problem in the Caribbean and Central America in 2015.

The cause was the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a cyclical climate phenomenon that affects weather patterns around the world. Forecasts indicate that its effects will be felt until early spring 2016, and devastating impacts have already been seen in South American countries like Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.

As a result of this record El Niño and its extreme climatic events, the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam predicted in October that at least 10 million of the world’s poorest people would go hungry in 2015 and 2016 due to failing crops.

“The most severe droughts reported in the Dominican Republic are associated with the ENSO phenomenon,” Sille told IPS, based on ONAMET’s studies.

But the meteorologist said that unlike in past years, “there is now awareness among decision-makers about climate change and the tendency towards reduced rainfall.”

“The authorities are learning to follow the early warning system and to implement prevention and adaptation plans,” she stated.

Sille pointed out that, in an unusual move, a government minister asked ONAMET in 2015 to carry out a study to assess the causes and likely duration of the drought that has been plaguing the country since 2014.

One quarter of the world’s population faces economic water shortage (when a population cannot afford to make use of an adequate water source).

This is true mainly in the developing South, where the local scientific communities have a hard time raising awareness regarding the management of drought, whose impacts are less obvious than the damage caused by hurricanes and earthquakes.

Experts in the Dominican Republic and other developing countries call for the creation of risk management plans to ward off the consequences of water scarcity crises.

“We have a National Plan Against Desertification and Drought, but some institutions apply it while others don’t,” lamented the meteorologist. “This drought demonstrated the urgent need for everyone to implement the programme, which we have been working on for a long time.”

She said 2015 highlighted the importance of educational campaigns on water rationing measures, drought-resistant crops, more frequent technical advice and orientation for farmers, more wells, and the maintenance of available water sources.

The Dominican Republic’s 10 reservoirs, located in six of the country’s 31 provinces, are insufficient, according to experts. Another one will be created when the Monte Grande dam is completed in the southern province of Barahona.

Along with rivers and other sources, the reservoirs must meet the demands of the country’s 9.3 million people and the local economy, where tourism plays a key role.

Water from the reservoirs is used first for household consumption, then irrigation of crops in the reservoir’s area of influence and the generation of electric power. But every sector was affected by water scarcity in 2015.

“The dry season was really bad. The worst of all, because it killed the crops,” Luisa Echeverry, a 48-year-old homemaker, told IPS. Her backyard garden in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón, in the municipality of Santo Domingo Norte, to the north of the capital, helps feed her family.

But her garden, where she grows beans and corn, as well as peppers and other vegetables, to complement the diet of her three children, was hit hard by the scant rainfall.

“When things were toughest, we would try to manage using our water tank, which we sometimes even used to provide our neighbours with water,” said Echeverry.

“Our concern was for the crops, in our houses we always had water,” said Ocrida de la Rosa, another woman from this rural town of small farmers in the province of Santo Domingo, where many women keep gardens and fruit trees to help feed their families.

All but two of the country’s reservoirs were operating at minimum capacity, which meant the authorities had to give priority to residential users over agriculture and power generation.

Yields went down, and many crops were lost, especially in rice paddies, which require huge quantities of water. Production in the rice-growing region in the northwest of the country fell 80 percent due to the scarce rainfall and the reduced flow in the Yaque del Norte River.

And the Dominican Agribusiness Council reported a 25 to 30 percent drop in dairy production due to the drought, while hundreds of heads of beef cattle died in the south of the country.

Production in the hydropower dams fell 60 percent, in a country where hydroelectricity accounts for 13 percent of the renewable energy supply.

The daily water supply in Greater Santo Domingo went down by 25 percent, and thousands of people in hundreds of neighbourhoods, and in the interior of the country, suffered water rationing measures. Some neighbourhoods depended on tanker trucks for water.

And in the face of rationing measures, residents of Greater Santo Domingo protested the wasteful use of water in less essential activities, as well as the many unrepaired leaks in the residential sector.

The authorities closed down local car wash businesses, which abound in the city, and people could be fined or even arrested for wasting water to wash cars, clean sidewalks and water gardens.

“Integrated water management has advanced in this country,” another ONAMET meteorologist, Bolívar Ledesma, told IPS.

To illustrate, he pointed to the National Water Observatory, which adopts water management decisions together with institutions like the Santo Domingo water and sewage company (CAASD), the National Institute of Potable Water and Sewage (INAP) and the National Water Resources Institute (INDRHI). (IPS)