Colombia braces for El Niño's return

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Colombia plans to take measures to save water and improve water efficiency as El Niño weather phenomenon threatens to bring below average rainfall for the country.

Measures include creating new water reservoirs, recycling and reusing water in the oil industry and levying penalties for water resources mismanagement, said environment minister Luz Helena Sarmiento in a statement.

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The government will launch a pilot program in northern department La Guajira to identify further actions targeted to mitigate the impact of El Niño.

El Niño is a periodic weather phenomenon that traditionally lowers rainfall in Colombia and Venezuela, but increases rains in Chile, Argentina and southern Brazil. Early signs of El Niño have already shown up in the region, although scientists predict that the full-blown event should occur sometime between by the end of 2014 and early 2015.

President Juan Manuel Santos called a meeting with ministers on Thursday to discuss further precautionary measures to address El Niño.

"Drought and lack of water are tough to fight," Santos said in a public speech.

Neighbor Venezuela, which is experiencing one of its driest spells in 60 years, has already started rationing programs, with various cities going without water for as many as four days a week.

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