Bogota: Colombian forecasters predict that a severe drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon will get worse before it gets better, which probably won't be until June, President Juan Manuel Santos has said.
"The drought's going to get a lot worse between now and March," said Santos, delivering the bad news at a press conference flanked by his top ministers, as he urged his countrymen to continue following rigorous water conservation measures.
Unusually warm temperatures caused in the Pacific around the equator by El Nino are known for causing weather extremes, and typically lead to less rain in South America.
Some regions, including Colombia's usually temperate Andes mountains region, are suffering a 60-percent decrease in rainfall, environmental officials say. In some areas, the drought has imperiled this year's harvest of coffee -- one of the nation's most important export commodities.
Dozens of communities, meanwhile, have reported that they are running out of water, the Colombian leader told reporters.
The silver lining, Santos said, is that Colombia over the past six months has been able to reduce the amount of water waste from 7.6 million cubic meters to 160,000, thanks to rigorous enforcement measures and public awareness campaigns.
The same El Nino weather pattern, meanwhile, brought torrential rains to southern California this month, causing flooding and mudslides in some areas.