Rainfall down in Cayman as region struggles with drought

Rainfall in the Cayman Islands is down by 5.5 inches so far this year, according to the Weather Service, amid drought conditions across the Caribbean.

Forecasters say this year’s El Nino in the Pacific has caused a decrease in tropical activity, and fewer tropical waves and hurricanes means less rainfall.

Crippling water restrictions in Puerto Rico and severe drought in Jamaica are having far-reaching effects in those countries, but Cayman and other small islands rely on desalination for drinking water and likely will not face the same impacts.

“El Nino disrupts overall global patterns and depresses tropical activity,” said Cayman Islands Weather Service Chief Meteorologist Kerry Powery. “We’ve been having a deficit since last year.” A tropical wave in June, the third biggest rainfall event in the past decade, dropped almost 10 inches of rain between June 3 and 5, making up for some of the deficit.

Cayman’s drinking water for the most part comes from desalinating brackish water. Mr. Powery said the low rainfall would not impact drinking water here, but could cause problems for farmers who rely on wells to water their crops. Underground aquifers need regular rainfall to replenish themselves. Around the region, Puerto Rico has been the worst hit by drought. Water restrictions mean many people can only access water every third day, according to local press.

El Nino is a warming in the Pacific with global impacts for weather systems. A slower hurricane season means fewer possibilities for big storms to fill up drinking water reservoirs in place like Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Cuban officials say three quarters of the island is under drought conditions, destroying thousands of acres of crops and killing livestock. Local media there report that many reservoirs are at less than half capacity. At the end of July, the country’s reservoirs were at 37 percent of their total water storage capacity, according to government figures released by the media. Cuban President Raul Castro called for water rationing in a speech at the close of the National Assembly. Jamaica also faces mandatory water restrictions for some areas.