1.5 million Puerto Ricans don’t have safe drinking water.
Due to widespread power outages, communities across the storm-battered island have lost running water. Water service may not resume until electricity is restored — a process that could take months.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised residents to use bottled water when possible. When water systems lose pressure, there’s a greater risk of bacterial contamination being drawn in, Reuters reports. And many people are now getting water from wells and springs — shallow groundwater sources that are especially susceptible to contamination after Maria damaged the sewer system and flooded toxic landfills.
Even before the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s water situation was worrisome. Nearly all of the tap water available violates federal safety rules, a Natural Resources Defense Council study concluded.
As Puerto Rico faces its sixth day without power in sweltering temperatures, Congress appears weeks away from approving a formal funding request for aid. Officials say that for now, they’re more focused on delivering resources than getting money from Congress.