Water scarcity in the face of record rain fall

Photograph source: World Food Programme


Tim of Tim’s El Salvador Blog recently posted a summary of the water situation in El Salvador that is striking.

“The availability of healthy water continues to be a serious challenge for El Salvador, and the Deluge of 2011 has only made it worse.”

The rest of the post outlines facts that affect the water situation in El Salvador such as:

  • 10,186 wells were destroyed or contaminated by the flooding
  • 28,862 latrines were damaged in the flooding
  • “…water supply in El Salvador is hovering on the threshold of 1,700 cubic metres of water per person per year, the upper limit for the definition of water stress. ” IPS
  • “…only two percent of the rivers contain water that can be made fit for human consumption, or used for irrigation or recreational activities.” IPS
  • “…92.9 percent of the urban population has piped water, but the proportion in rural areas is only 63.9 percent.” IPS

The fact that a high amount of rain falls on El Salvador every year yet there is a shortage of water for Salvadorans in their homes seems like an opportunity to incorporate rainwater catchment strategies. There are several ways for people to capture water for safe use in this climate.

  • Infiltrate water that falls on impervious surfaces such as roofs and patios.
  • Capture water in a tank or cistern that falls on impervious surfaces today for use tomorrow.
  • Use untreated rain water to irrigate plants, wash cars or flush toilets
  • Filter and treat water for use in showers and sinks outside the kitchen
  • Treat water for use in the kitchen and for drinking
  • Capture large amounts of water during the rainy season for use during the dry season

la Málaga

La Málaga, a location in San Salvador that is highly vulnerable to floods has been affected by the storms this week. Here is a photo of la Málaga on Monday, October 10th at about 4:40 p.m. The photograph of the cover of Más was taken on Saturday, October 15th.

la Málaga, San Salvador on October 10th, 2011

la Málaga, San Salvador on October 10th, 2011

la Málaga, San Salvador on October 15th, 2011

la Málaga, San Salvador on October 15th, 2011

La Málaga is a fairly densely populated community that is unfortunately located at a hydrological bottle neck in San Salvador. Runoff coming down the San Salvador volcano from the Santa Tecla area fills streams as it gathers speed. La Málaga is a bend in those rivers and is quite narrow considering the quantity of water that needs to flow through there during a storm surge.

Bad or good timing?

Tutinichapa II - a three year old landslide

Tutinichapa II - a three year old landslide

I am fortunate enough to be in El Salvador right now gathering information to inform my thesis. Although it stopped raining today around 4:00 where I am, it has been raining for more than 48 hours in El Salvador.

I came to El Salvador because I am interested in a metropolitan-wide sinkhole condition that is caused by human-made water systems. There are three types of systems: potable water, sewer and storm water systems. Right now the storm water systems are overflowing and causing new sinkholes to form, tearing down bridges and flooding communities.

The emergency has thrown a wrench into some of my plans because my guides are busy attending to the emergency and it isn’t exactly a great idea to go to a community that is prone to storm water related disasters. I will say that is is eye opening to see this quantity of water fall in person. I hope that people are able to stay out of harm’s way.

Tim of Tim’s El Salvador Blog has a well written post about the storm in English.