Restoring Potable Water in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

For the last weeks, I have been looking at the controversies connected to the Puerto Rican government’s ability to restore electricity to the island’s residential, commercial and industrial customers. While there are many reasons why the destruction of Puerto Rico’s electrical systems deserves a lot of attention, it is worth highlighting the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority’s (PRASA) efforts to restore potable water to the island’s population, which is a more positive story.

Using data from Status.pr, the first line graph shows that by October 2, PRASA re-established 47% of the island’s potable water. Today, 93% of PRASA’s customers have water.

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The second graph explores the restoration of potable water by region. It also illustrate the impact Hurricane Maria had on PRASA’s infrastructure in different parts of the island. The most affected regions were the northern and western regions, followed by the eastern and southern regions.

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While PRASA has been able to restore water to a majority of Puerto Ricans, there are many residential customers who will not have potable water in their homes until early next year.  Many of these customers reside in the island’s mountain towns, which are part of PRASA’s northern region.

 

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Electricity Generation in Puerto Rico Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria

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On November 17, 2017, Ricardo Ramos stepped down as the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Governor Ricardo Rosselló quickly accepted his resignation and noted that controversies connected to Ramos’s decisions post-Maria had become a distraction. Once he appointed an interim replacement, Rosselló reemphasized that the goal is to restore electricity to 95% of PREPA’s customers by Christmas. Is this objective feasible? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as noted in previous posts, has made it clear that they expect to restore power to most Puerto Ricans by February 2018.

In today’s graph, we chart the percentage of electricity generated by PREPA from September 5, 2017 – the day before Hurricane Irma skirted the island’s northeast coast – to November 17.

The data before September 29, 2017 was collected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office for Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration. The rest has been made public in the Puerto Rican’s Government Portal – StatusPR. This is not to say that this portal’s information is accurate. For instance, on November 15 it reported that PREPA’s electricity production was at 50% but the information did not take into account a power outage that reduced production to around 20%, increasing to 37% by that night.

As of today, November 18, PREPA’s electricity generation is still under 50%. It is not clear how many Puerto Ricans actually have electricity at home, as PREPA and the Puerto Rican government claim that they can’t provide an accurate estimate. The U.S. Department of Energy on November 16 noted that 57 out of 78 municipalities “are partially energized or have energized facilities”.

Many Puerto Ricans, especially in the island’s interior, have had no power for over 70 days.

Did Ricardo Rosselló Earn More Mentions than Carmen Yulín Cruz in U.S. Online News After Hurricane Maria?

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, has become the strongest critic of the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria. Her growing popularity among Democrats in the United States has overshadowed Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo Rosselló. In an earlier post, I used Google Trends data to show that many Google users in the United States started to search for more information on Cruz after her first Twitter battle with President Trump.

While Rosselló has earned more mentions in U.S. TV news organizations’ reporting of the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria, the San Juan mayor did receive more mentions in the cable news channels, especially in CNN and MSNBC.

In this post, we look at U.S. Online News coverage of the island’s recovery efforts and how many sentences include references to either Rosselló or Cruz. In this short analysis, I used MediaCloud,  an open source platform created by a team of researchers at Harvard University and MIT to study “media ecosystems”, to search its collection of U.S. Online News for articles printed between September 18 and October 30, 2017 that mentioned either politician. So, who earned the most mentions?

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Given the Google Trends data, this is not a surprising finding. While Rosselló did receive more mentions in the U.S. TV News coverage of Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts, it is important to note that she earned 47% of all the mentions and that his mentions were inflated by PBS News’ reporting.

If we look at a timeline of the media organizations in MediaCloud’s U.S. On-Line News Collection, we see a similar pattern to the trends we discussed in the previous posts.

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The number of sentences that mentioned Cruz increased dramatically during her Twitter feud in late September with Trump. Different from the trend-lines examined in the previous two posts, sentences mentioning the San Juan Mayor outnumber those mentioning Rosselló for most of the time period.

In the previous trend-lines, we see that Rosselló’s numbers increase after his meeting with President Trump at the White House on October 19. By the end of October, Rosselló’s earns more mentions and this associated with his criticisms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid and his decision to cancel the contract with Whitefish Energy, which Cruz, among many politicians in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, had criticized.

With these findings, we can conclude that Cruz has become a rising start in the United States. Her standing in Puerto Rico is more difficult to measure. Unfortunately, the tools we used to measure Cruz’s or Rosselló’s influence in the U.S. media environment does not apply to Puerto Rico. The Google Trends data for Google users in Puerto Rico does show that interest in Rosselló is still very strong. But we need to use these results with caution as many Puerto Ricans lack access to the Internet.

In the future, I will look at how Puerto Ricans perceive both Rosselló and Cruz, by comparing and contrasting Facebook users’ or Twitter users’ opinions of both politicians to a particular issue or event we can deduce their overall standing in the islands’ political system.

 

Air Passenger Travel To and From Puerto Rico

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One of the sad consequences of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis has been the migration of thousands of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland. Unfortunately, Hurricane Maria’s destruction of the island’s infrastructure will probably intensify this trend, which will further weaken the territory’s tax base and increase its ‘brain drain’.

How many people have left Puerto Rico in the last weeks? On October 13, 2017, NPR reported that more than 27,000 have traveled to Florida. A more recent story published in Bloomberg estimates that the number of Puerto Ricans who have relocated to Florida is around 73,000. Puerto Ricans have also resettled in the Northeast, though at a smaller rate.

In a few months, we will be able to gauge the migration of Puerto Ricans after the storm using data on air passenger travel to and from Puerto Rico. These figures are collected by the Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico on a monthly basis.

The graph above shows that since 2007 on average outbound travel is higher than inbound travel, though the gap starts to dramatically increase after 2009. From July 2008 to June 2017, an estimated 48,700,000 passengers flew to Puerto Rico, while around 49,392,000 flew out of the island. These figures do not imply that an estimated 692,000 Puerto Ricans moved to the mainland in this time period, but it does suggest that many thousands did and it corroborates studies that find that over 400,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to the U.S. mainland in the last decade.

How many more Puerto Ricans will move to the mainland after this hurricane season? Will they return home once things start to improve in the island? Only time will tell.