The Public Services Company of Heredia (ESPH) warned its customers via Facebook Wednesday to watch out for potential water bandits. The company advised residents to be on the lookout for both unmarked trucks and trucks bearing a fake ESPH logo at work sites and to report any suspicious activity to their hotline.
“This was just a preventative measure. We haven’t had any water robberies yet,” said Francisco Angulo, a spokesman for the ESPH, “but it is definitely not inconceivable, with the water shortages we are having, that someone could come in the middle of the night with a truck and steal water.”
H2O hijackers are just the latest concern in Costa Rica’s worsening drought, which has caused water shortages in 77 communities, according the Water and Sewer Institute (AyA). On Thursday, the canton of Santo Domingo de Heredia, north of San José, announced a state of emergency due to a lack of water.
The canton’s eastern districts of San Miguel, Pará, Paracito and Tures are now receiving their water from trucks after the area’s primary water source, the Pará Blanco River, nearly dried up this week. According to a report from TV news station Teletica, the water capture from the river has dropped from its normal volume of 45 liters per second to three to four liters. Approximately 17,000 residents are affected by the shortage.
According to the Environmental Management Office of Santo Domingo’s Facebook page, residents of those areas can pick up containers of water from trucks passing along route 32 and stationed in downtown Santo Domingo.
The communities of Zapote, San Francisco, San Diego, Desamparados and the canton of La Unión, west of Cartago, are also experiencing significant shortages and have been subjected to water shutoffs 12 hours every day since January. Though Santo Domingo receives water from the municipality, some 25,000 ESPH customers in Heredia have also been subject to rationing since mid-February.
According to the National Meteorological Institute, the water shortages can be attributed to the unusually dry rainy seasons that Costa Rica has experienced for the past three years, due mostly to the effects of an El Niño weather phenomenon.
Communities that rely primarily on groundwater sources have been the least affected, while most of the areas under rationing receive water from rivers or springs. To combat the drying surface sources, both the ESPH and AyA – which together supply more than half Costa Rica’s population with water – are drilling new wells. Angulo says that ESPH customers should expect a new Heredia well by late April.