The 50% of water in Colombia is of poor quality.

Beleño I. The 50% of water in Colombia is of poor quality.
News Agency NC, Bogotá D. C., 3 / 3 / 2011. National University of Colombia.

Although Colombia is the sixth largest country in the world water reserve, the Ministry of Environment estimates that half of these resources have quality problems. It is estimated that industry, agriculture and domestic sewage generated nine thousand tons of organic contaminants in aquifers.

Three mountains, two oceans,moorlands, tropicl forests and a strategic location, allows the country to have a generous water supply that long time, the sixth with more water in the world. Over the years, the ranking has been decanted, and now discusses issues such as quality and availability that people have of the resource. Under this aspect, Colombia has descended several steps, to the point that last year was ranked at number 24. With average annual rainfall of 1,800 milliliters, when the rest of the world’s nations are 900-ml, about 720 000 river basins and about ten rivers with permanent flow, one would think that there are unlimited water for all. However, the situation is worrying. Deputy Minister of Environment, Carlos Castaño, says that over 50% of water resources in Colombia can not be used due to quality problems. “We are facing a situation that necessarily must be amended. To this is added to the water supply in Colombia is not available on an equitable basis, “says the senior official.

According to the national report on water management in Colombia, made with the support of the Global Water Partnership and the Economic Commission for Latin America , the sources that contributing to the deterioration of water and constantly increasing pollution in the country are different, with the agricultural, industrial and domestic key players, and which together generate about nine thousand tons of organic contaminants. The document, one of the reports presented at the Second World Water Forum, held in 2000 in The Hague, said that the natural environment are downloaded almost 4.5 million m3 of domestic and industrial wastewater, and most municipalities plants do not have treatment. Barranquilla city only have oxidation ponds  before discharge of the waters, while the capital has a treatment plant that processes only 20% of what people produce.

According to the National Water Study (2010), which held every four years, the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), most of the Colombian Andean water system has been impaired due to sediment and toxic substances, with a marked incidence of industrial corridors located in the basins of the runners Bogota- Soacha, Medellin- Itagüí, Cali-Yumbo, Sogamoso-Duitama-Nobsa, Barranquilla-Soledad and Cartagena-Mamonal, which seriously affects the quality of the liquid in rivers Magdalena, Medellin, Bogota and Cauca.

Abundance vs. shortage

 Colombia has a natural water supply of 2,200 km3 per year. Nelson Omar Vargas, who is specializ in the IDEAM Hydrology Branch, says it is a lot of water for a country that demands only 35 km3 per year, of which nine are lost due to inefficiencies in the irrigation, industrial processes and aqueducts, however, many regions suffer from limited access to the resource and poor quality. In this sense, Guillermo Leon Vasquez, a professor of the Faculty of Agronomy of the Universidad Nacional in Medellin, said that access to quality water is affected by distribution problems. “To this we call technological shortage for mineral exploitation, so many people of the the Pacific coast and the Caribbean plains , despite living in areas with rich resource do not have water or it is  not drinking.”

In Colombia there are areas where rainfall levels reached 10,000 mm per year as the Pacific, and others where just 800 mm average rainfall, as in La Guajira. Indeed, in  places with more offer there are not significant concentration of population. In fact, 70% of Colombians live in the area corresponding to the basin of the Magdalena-Cauca River, which contributes only 11% of the water resources of the country, and where it generates 85% of GDP. The rest of the country, where the important regions that contribute to 89% of water as the Orinoco, Amazon, Pacific, Atrato, Catatumbo and Sierra Nevada, home to 30% of Colombians. This demographic pressure ends up negatively affecting watersheds. “It is necessary to make management for the disadvantages of water availability in the regional and local level for to take adecuated  decisions. Thus, it is clear that the problem is not supply-demand relationship, “said Vargas, of IDEAM.

More girls and boys

German Poveda, professor of the UN in Medellin and expert on the subject, says that climate change affects watersheds in the country because it is subjected to more intense hydrological cycles and less spaced, such as: The boy and the girl. “It is extreme events that cause flooding, as we saw in late 2010. ” For Conrado de Jesus Tobon Marin, also a professor of the Faculty of Agronomy in Medellin. A analys of moors and high-Andean forests, more than climate change should be analyzed with priority land uses, the relationship between man and nature and consider phenomena such as poverty. “Human beings and their actions on ecosystems themselves are able to modify the weather in litle time. For example, the burning of moorland basins sample  the clearest effects on the environment in less than a month. ” Colombia has abundant water is not being used properly and whose availability is a problem for many municipalities. The severe winter has affected 28 departments with flooding, but there are still problems of supply and quality. Pollution, poor land use and lack management are some of the ingredients of the dangerous cocktail of loss of liquid, sooner or later, charge invoice.

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UN Periódico Impreso No. 141“>UN Periódico Impreso No. 141

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