Food and medicine shortages, street violence, rampant electrical blackouts. These are the dire conditions of life in Venezuela—and now . . . sputtering faucets. Venezuela’s water system is crumbling along with its socialist economy, leaving the country’s people desperate for water.
God gave humans the urge to drink water in order to feed their cells, organs, and tissues. The Bible compares thirsting for God to lacking water. “My soul thirsts for you,” the psalmist says, “as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) Venezuela is quickly becoming such a land.
Water in Elizabeth Robles’ posh neighborhood flowed only one or two days a week. Even after filling an underground storage tank and rationing, the neighbors had water only briefly each day. It ran out before after-work showers. Robles and her neighbors got fed up. The group scraped together about $7,000 to hire a drilling team. Drilling was dirty, noisy, expensive—and illegal. In Venezuela, most private wells go in without a permit. But thirsty people aren’t willing to wait for paperwork that can take up to two years.
And what about Venezuelans who can’t afford to pay someone to dig a well? These people must struggle with dwindling public water supplies. They hope erratic flows will fill their 150-gallon plastic storage tanks. Or they stand in line at trickling hillside springs to fill up jugs for free.
The Venezuelan capital of Caracas once had a world-class water system. Now pipes are bursting. Pumps are failing. Cattle graze in a reservoir outside the city. They feed on grass that should be deep underwater. Jose Maria de Viana, former president of Caracas’ state-run water provider, blames government incompetence. The government blames a slow rainy season.
In one of Venezuela’s most sprawling slums, Carmen Rivero says people are happy when water flows and angry when it doesn’t. Sadly, that is most of the time. She says her neighborhood recently went three months without tap water. Before that, a full eight months.
Water shortages have sparked hundreds of protests countrywide. Frustration over water often drives residents into the streets to try to demand solutions. During one such protest, armed national guard soldiers threatened arrest if people didn’t return home.
“You’re a human being, and you know we can’t do anything without water,” Rivero told a soldier. He replied that his family was just like hers, but he had to follow orders.