ASUNCION – The pollution of surface and underground water resources and the lack of a sanitation network threaten Paraguay’s hydro potential, according to UNESCO.
That landlocked country boasts the largest freshwater reserves in South America with nearly 63,000 cubic meters (2.2 million cubic feet) available per person annually.
Fast-flowing rivers like the Parana, whose power is harnessed by the Itaipu Dam, have made Paraguay a hydroelectric power producer, while part of the Guarani aquifer, one of the world’s most important fresh-water reservoirs, is located beneath the surface of that South American country.
But although Paraguay boasts plentiful surface and subterranean water reserves, there are signs these resources are deteriorating, David Fariña, the Environment Secretariat’s water resources director, told EFE.
Fariña mentioned the Ypacarai Lake basin, a region near Asuncion that inspired folk songs and was a tourist attraction due to its natural beauty but which now is off-limits to swimmers because of industrial and domestic wastewater.
Similar problems have affected Bahia de Asuncion, a small bay on the capital’s northern outskirts that is separated from the Paraguay River by a low-lying peninsula.
Despite having been designated an ecological reserve, it has been polluted by fecal waste and bacteria that flow from all parts of the city.
The key to solving these pollution problems is to expand access to sewage systems, which according to 2013 data are only in place in 11 percent of Paraguay’s urban centers, and build water treatment plants, according to Fariña, who said people also need to be made aware of the importance of not throwing garbage in waterways.
The Paraguayan government is working on a nationwide project that calls for $2.4 billion to be invested to extend sewage and water treatment services to 50 percent of the South American country’s population by 2018.
Potable water coverage in Paraguay, according to figures from the Public Works and Communications Ministry, amounted to 56 percent in rural zones and 70 percent in urban areas as of 2013.