Drought vents its fury on Cuba

Despite the rains of recent weeks, the dry season started with very low water reserves in the country.

Agricultural productions are starting to show signs of deterioration because of the shortage of water.

After experiencing this year one of the biggest droughts in its history, in November Cuba has begun its traditionally dry months. The most humid periods, from May to October, closed below the all-time rain average, with more alarming signs in the west, according to reports by the Institute of Meteorology (INSMET) and the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH).

According to registers of the network of meteorological and rainfall stations, during the recently concluded period the country reached 855.4 millimetres of precipitations, an amount that represents 84 per cent of the all-time average.

 

The National Hydrological Service of the INRH reported that the west suffered a greater deficit of precipitations, receiving only 80 per cent of its all-time average (895.2 mm). That register is equivalent to the 11th driest period observed in that zone since 1901. The centre and east of the island closed with comparatively less damages, reaching 90 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively, of their usual averages for the semester.

 

The persistent drought affected 68 per cent of the national territory from November 2014 to October 2015, but was more acute in the western provinces, where one of the country’s principal food production centres is located.

 

Though the rains increased in recent weeks, the alarm bell is still on. At the close of October, the 242 reservoirs managed by the INRH were storing 4.555 billion cubic metres of water, barely 50 per cent of their total capacity. Due to a certain relief in November (104 per cent of the month’s all-time average), the reservoirs are storing 734 million over the amount they were storing a month before, but even so Cuba is receiving its dry season with very weakened water reserves.

The country’s reservoirs met the dry season, which begins in November, with barely half of their storage capacity.

The country’s reservoirs met the dry season, which begins in November, with barely half of their storage capacity.

 

The shortage of precipitations has coincided with signs of strong warming in the region linked to climate change, according to experts. This year records of high temperatures have been reported in several provinces, especially in the west (Pinar del Río, Artemisa and Isla de la Juventud, the second largest island of the Cuban archipelago). The Institute of Meteorology reported that the period from May to October was the third hottest since 1951. The registers were only higher in 1998 and 2010.

 

The decrease in rains aggravated the event of meteorological drought, with characteristics of agricultural drought throughout all the island’s provinces. Towns in the province of Ciego de Avila, an important agricultural enclave, of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo, both in the east, have also reported difficulties in the supply of water for the population.

 

The most affected productions include rice, potato and coffee. The 2015-2016 sugar harvest, which begins in late November, is foreseeing it will be affected due to a similar reason. The Azcuba business group has not announced harvest plans but did say recently that it has less cane than expected because of the intense drought affecting the country. (2015)

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