The Pilcomayo River forms the international border between Argentina and Paraguay and is the longest western branch (518 miles or 834 kilometers) of the Paraguay River.
This last stretch of the river relies on the annual three-month rainy season (from January to March) and, just like el Niño in Southern California, this year’s water supply fell drastically short.
As a result, the Pilcomayo River in Paraguay has dried up. There are no official estimates yet, but Roque González Vera, a journalist for ABC Color in Paraguay, reveals that more than 98 percent of caimans have died, and 80 percent of the capybara population, the largest rodent in Earth, might be dead. The few remaining fish and other river creatures gather across the layer of mud also known as the Agropil lagoon, one of the many stretches of the Pilcomayo River, to swallow the last drops of water.
This drought has left Paraguay facing one of their largest ecological crises with little options for water security.
The effects of the second most severe drought in the past 30 years have been exacerbated by the aging infrastructure and mismanagement of water resources. The results of such actions include increasing the threat to wildlife, agriculture and the 1.5 million people who lived along the Pilcomayo, greatly worrying scientists in Paraguay who believe they are in the midst of a now annual occurrence.
Despite the extent of the devastation, the local and national governments have done very little to address the situation. To restore the flow on both sides of the border, both countries will need to cooperate, and none of the plausible solutions are quick or easy.
For Californians, Pilcomayo River is a warning of what the future might bring if the state doesn’t strengthen our local drought resiliency and update our aging water infrastructure.