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Puerto Rico's Water Crisis Highlights Need to be Prepared

After Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico last month, pummeling the island with winds of up to 155 miles per hour and dumping a deluge of rain, most of the island has been reduced to rubble. As a result, the majority of the island's 3.4 million inhabitants have been left without power and nearly half the population without water, and it will likely take months before either are restored.

The category 4 storm has left 16 people dead, with those that survived the initial brunt of the storm now trying to survive in "near-death conditions", according to Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan.

Note:  We have been making system donations to charities involved in relief efforts.  Pls contact us if you are part of a organization looking for donations.

Puerto Rico's drinking water quality has always been questionable. Mother Jones reported that in 2015 99.5% of the population was served by water systems that did not meet Drinking Water Safety Standards. This devastation left by Hurricane Maria is testing the islands already strained water infrastructure, leaving around 1.5 million residents without access to safe drinking water and thus dependent on bottled water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. FEMA has delivered around 6 million liters of bottled water to residents affected by hurricane damage in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (following Hurricane Irma). But as humans require at least two liters of water a day just for drinking, these water rations are not going to go far, especially considering that safe drinking water supplies are not likely to be restored anytime soon.

A Puerto Rico National Guard soldier helps transport food and water to Jayuya, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017, while supporting Hurricane Maria relief efforts. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. José Ahiram Díaz-Ramos A Puerto Rico National Guard soldier helps transport food and water to Jayuya, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017, while supporting Hurricane Maria relief efforts. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. José Ahiram Díaz-Ramos

The power outages caused by Hurricane Maria caused water pumps at treatment facilities throughout the island to fail. The resulting reduction in water pressure makes the water supply vulnerable to contamination by bacteria as well as other contaminants, which can easily seep into the water supply lines, especially given the fact that they are old and leaky. Furthermore, drinking water sources may become contaminated with floodwater and raw sewage, and because officials are not able to effectively treat the drinking water, this poses a potential health hazard to inhabitants. In many of the affected areas, residents won't have access to safe drinking water until power is restored, which may only be in six months time.

While they wait for assistance, residents are dependent on bottled water as their only safe supply. FEMA is doing their best to deliver water that has been shipped into the country to those in need, but with roads blocked with debris and bridges badly damaged, they cannot get to some communities who are running out of water.

Some grocery stores have reopened and are rationing limited supplies of food and bottled water. But residents who can't get to a grocery store that is open have been forced to collect water from leaking or broken pipes — a source that has the risk of being contaminated.

Now that President Trump has finally waived the Jones Act, loosening shipping regulations for Puerto Rico for 10 days, neighboring countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba who are willing to help but have been hindered by red tape, can provide assistance such as much needed supplies of bottled water of drinking water filters to the desperate residents of Puerto Rico.

But environmental experts warn that residents may still not be safe once water services are restored, as the water supply will most like contain a concoction of pollutants and toxins.

According to Erik Olson, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council: "You don't have to have a huge water upset to create a very serious problem. In 1993, Milwaukee's water supply was compromised after the system's filters stopped working properly. More than 400,000 people were sickened and 69 people died. This is the kind of thing that happens when a source water becomes contaminated," warns Olson.

5 thoughts on “Puerto Rico's Water Crisis Highlights Need to be Prepared”

  • Nancy Rios

    Will your company offer discounts on the black filters. If so, what quantities need to be purchased and how much of a discount?

    Reply
  • Amanda

    What is the best filtration device/system we can buy in bulk and have shipped to families in PR?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Amanda -

      Any of our systems with the black berkey filters would work well. We have been shipping many Royals to the area. We would suggest the Crown berkey (our largest system) for taking care of the most amount of folks.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Sue

    If we purchase a system, or part of a system, can you ship to Puerto Rico? Have you identified an organization there to do the distribution? Thank you.

    Reply
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