Colombian city goes 6 days without water, comptroller investigates

The comptroller of Manizales launched a preliminary investigation into the nearly week-long water shortage as the city completes its sixth day without water, newspaper El Espectador reported Tuesday.

Manizales Comptroller Gustavo Castañeda is investigating whether or not the city had a contingency plan to provide uninterrupted water service in case of an emergency. He will also look to determine the status of the repairs of the Niza water treatment plant, which has been out of service for 18 months in the last two years.

The capital city of the central Caldas department has gone six days without water after a landslide destroyed part of the Luis Prieta pipeline, the city’s main water supply, on October 19.

Manizales has two water plants, each one capable of supplying the entire city with water. One of them, the Niza plant, was initially destroyed in a landslide in November 2008 and was disabled until May 2010. Another landslide wiped out part of the pipeline in October 2010 and the plant has remained inoperable since.

“The city was at the mercy of a single plant,” an official of a regulatory agency told El Espectador. “How is it possible that one year after the damage of the alternative plant it still continues to be out of service?”

According to the manager of the pipeline, the eight-month delay to begin the reconstruction of the Niza plant was because the contract to repair the site was sent to Colombia Humanitaria, the government organization which manages rainy season resources, in April 2011, six months after the plant was damaged.

However, according to El Espectador, the contract was approved and signed in March and the $3.8 million allocated towards the repair have not been used. The reconstruction of the Niza plant should have been finished by October 11, according to the original deadline.

Authorities believe that the aqueduct should be 50% functional by Thursday, although the contractors caution that the timetable for reconstruction depends on the weather.

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