Uruguay’s Drinking Water Crisis

Jul 15, 2023
 by Seven Seas News Team

The overuse of water, along with a significant drop in reservoir levels and a reduced flow rate in Uruguay's Santa Lucía River, has strained local water systems.

Desalination, water reuse among options to build resilience

Uruguay has the best track record in Latin America for providing its residents with clean, safe drinking water. However, the nation of 3.5 million is suffering a severe water crisis after a three-year drought.

It’s driven by La Niña, a complex weather phenomenon where there is a cooling of sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, influencing atmospheric circulation, disrupting normal weather patterns, and affecting rainfall and temperatures around the world.

The ongoing drought, exacerbated by heat waves fueled by climate change, has boosted consumer water use. This overuse of water, along with a significant drop in reservoir levels and a reduced flow rate in the Santa Lucía River, has local water systems struggling to meet the high demand.

As a result, the state-run water utility OSE has added brackish water from the Rio de la Plata estuary to the freshwater supply in a last-ditch effort to keep water flowing from taps in the capital of Montevideo and surrounding communities.

That Tap Water Isn’t Drinkable, Residents Say

But consumers are complaining that the water is salty and undrinkable, and that they must resort to bottled water. While more affluent residents can afford the luxury, many cannot. Consequently, the government has had to distribute bottled water to poorer communities and vulnerable groups such as nursing homes, hospitals, and schools.

Uruguay’s water woes provide a stark reminder that even a country with good water management and infrastructure can be affected by extreme weather events. In a world where the weather is increasingly unpredictable, how can nations be better prepared for extreme and prolonged droughts? Desalination, water reuse, and Water-as-a-Service® can offer solutions to the world’s most urgent water needs.

Desalination of Brackish Water and Seawater

Although Uruguay has a water crisis, it doesn’t lack water. The problem is that Uruguay has a lack of potable water because of the drought and overuse of groundwater. There are measures the country can take to become more resilient.

Uruguay’s 410-mile (660-kilometer) coastline extends along two bodies of water, the Rio de la Plata estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. That offers ample opportunity and endless supply for desalinization of brackish water and seawater. This offers a sustainable solution for addressing the water crisis faced by the 60% of the country’s population living in and around Montevideo.

Brackish groundwater is a potential source of drinking water in both coastal and inland regions. While brackish groundwater is too salty to serve as potable water without treatment, with brackish water reverse osmosis desalination technologies, the salt can be removed to make it drinkable.

While desalination ventures are typically associated with high capital outlay, Seven Seas Water Group provides small-scale desalination solutions with no upfront costs. Desalination plants can be combined with wastewater recycling for reuse to maximize water efficiency.

Recycling Water for Reuse Preserves Underground Aquifers

Recycling wastewater for reuse provides a sustainable source of water that can be used for applications such as irrigation. With advanced treatment it can even serve as drinking water, thereby taking pressure off aquifers and other freshwater resources.

Recycled water can also be used to recharge overexploited aquifers or to replenish water-stressed freshwater systems, thereby helping to maintain the ecological integrity of aquatic systems.

Seven Seas takes a comprehensive approach to water management. We treat all forms of water, no matter where it is in the water cycle, to provide a steady and reliable supply of clean, safe water. Seven Seas offers desalination, advanced water purification, wastewater treatment, and water recycling treatment options directly where they are needed.

Our Water-as-a-Service® offering and flexible Lease Plant Program can get the water treatment infrastructure many regions need without huge capital outlay, paying only for the water delivered.

Contact Seven Seas to learn more about our water treatment technologies and how our Water-as-a-Service® partnerships help communities build resilience to water scarcity and drought.

Image Credit: charles03/123rf