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Uruguay Wasn’t Supposed to Run Out of Water

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Uruguayans have been drinking, cooking and bathing with salty water for months. The longest drought the country has ever recorded left its capital, Montevideo, almost completely dry, forcing the city to add brackish water to its supplies.

The crisis is striking for a country that was seemingly blessed with bountiful fresh water, and that appeared to be ahead of the climate change curve, as The Times Magazine reported last year. But the three-year drought brought the country to its knees.

Water stress is a major concern all over the globe. A similar crisis is happening now in parts of Iran, and you may remember the 2018 drought in Cape Town, and another one in São Paulo, Brazil, in 2015.

Climate change didn’t directly cause the drought in Uruguay and neighboring Argentina, as we reported last year. But global warming was a factor in extreme heat that made the drought worse, scientists said, by increasing the loss of moisture from soil and plants. Deforestation in the Amazon may have also played a role.

Whatever the extent of climate change’s role, the drought has underscored that…

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