Water Replenishment in Santa Marta: Recurring Drought Without Respite

While chewing a leaf of ayahuasca under a tree’s shade, Héctor Rodríguez Anchila, president of the Association of Artisan and Cultivation Fishermen (CRÍAPEZ) wonders whether the afternoon’s heat is an omen that the river will suffer in the coming days. Every summer for the last three decades, the rivers that go down from the Sierra and those that cross the Magdalena register a significant decrease in their flow rates. The Manzanares and Bonda rivers are not without the phenomenon, and in recent years accelerated urban and demographic growth has worsened the crisis.

Héctor is a resident of Isla del Rosario in Pueblo Viejo and has been dedicated to fishing. In recent years, he founded the association with thirteen other friends. His story matters because he is betting on the decontamination of the water to advance water purification. The goal is to improve upon existing decontamination models to bring them closer to the dream of having clean and accessible water in their correction.

Local mayors have made vague efforts to incorporate the association’s aqueduct into the infrastructure of the village. “When there is no rain, we go out on Wednesdays from the morning to the street with the wheelbarrow and a motor pump to line up in Ciénaga, which is in the only part where the water arrives,” he says. That’s the most practical way we have to supply ourselves because the Swamp is contaminated, and the water is not suitable for human consumption”.

In Pueblo Viejo, the promise of water adds to the long list of development opportunities left to them by the former local and regional representatives.

In the city, the scene is no different: currently in more than 150 neighborhoods of Santa Marta the water has stopped. Sometimes it takes days; other times weeks. On average, it takes 2,500 liters persecutors to supply it fully it, but the entire network that makes up the aqueduct produces about 1,500 LP, which in dry weather is reduced to 1,200 LP.

In El Pando, a neighborhood located in the southeast of the city, several neighbors showed us their issues with the service. “We are already used to the water going until 15 days to come; this is something we spend every year and the passing mayors do not solve the problem. When it does not rain and the pools are emptied, it is our turn to put padlock to the stem tube lid and connect twice a week a motor pump that draws water to refill the tanks. If that water runs out, it’s our turn to buy water bag packs in the store” said one local.

In an interview for a national newspaper, Antonio Nieto, former operating and maintenance director of the Essmar, stated that, in addition to the lack of rains,” the upper part is not being adequately cared for, there are a lot of deforestation little additional phenomena that are making the flows less and smaller.” In this regard, Ati Gúndiwa, an indigenous leader, argues that the authorities have been required to protect water and the mountains for the indigenous.

As in Pando, it is common to see illegal connections in water service pipes due to the irregularity with which it appears.

According to agricultural engineer Manuel Pinto Zapata, to level human and agrarian consumption with the supply of liquid, we must know the role that water and irrigation districts play to give them proper use. In the Sierra Nevada there are currently three critical areas of aqueducts:

The Caribbean aqueducts (which encompasses from the west to the east Cordoba, Toribio, Gaira, Manzanares, Piedra, Guachaca, Mendihuaca, Buritaca, Don Diego and Palomino), the Magdalena aqueducts (with the Seville, Tucurinca, Arcata and Fundación rivers that flow into the Ciénaga) and the Macrocuenca del Cesar aqueducts (in the east).

For the expert, the most effective way to cement sustainable practices with the environment and avoid climate damage that directly affects the quality of life of the inhabitants should be based on the following:

  1. The creation of working groups for each river made up of scientists, to guide people with influence over the river and adjacent areas to achieve the rational use of water and make conservation of the basins.
  2. Train families are living in the upper, middle, and lower areas to turn them into rangers and control livestock activities to avoid deforestation in the basins.
  3. Calculate how much water is counted per river in liters per second and how much is lost on the way to the mouth, contemplating the creation of “beaver type” reserves in the areas where vulnerable populations require the liquid for their subsistence in the first instance.
  4. Make a census of the agricultural sector to know what the area of planting of the different crops is, livestock herds, and machinery, to determine the water requirements of each of them according to their water balances, taking into account the soil in the physical and chemical part.
  5. Involve legal, administrative, and political entities in the commitment and implementation of the environmental strategies.

However, as a consensus is reached on what measures to take in the face of the inexorable annual visit of the drought, the water problem persists, and more and more families are thirsty every day.


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