With North Korea in the midst of an unusually difficult dry spell that is threatening to decimate this year’s harvest in some regions, it has emerged that a number of parts of Pyongyang have now been without running water for two months due to electricity shortages.
The cause of the problem is North Korea’s reliance on hydroelectric power generation, which is susceptible to exactly this kind of weather phenomenon. Without the electricity generated by North Korea’s main dams, it is impossible to maintain water supplies.
“The water has been off in the residential districts of Pyongcheon, Daedonggang, Yeokpo and Yongseong since the Day of the Sun (April 15th). Having no water in this hot weather is making people pretty annoyed,” a Pyongyang source told Daily NK today. “The most important duty of a man right now is bringing water, which they have to bring in bottles and buckets from pretty far away in the heat.”
According to the source, electricity must be supplied consistently if the capital city’s water supply system, which operates based on a few large reservoirs and a number of smaller ones linked by electric pumps, to function correctly.
“As soon as electricity supplies to Pyongyang run into trouble, all the reservoirs from which the water is meant to come enter an emergency situation, too,” the source said. “Because insufficient electricity is coming from Heecheon, the pumps are not working properly and ultimately there is no water for homes either.”
The source believes that it is primarily the failure of the newly completed hydroelectric power station at Heecheon in Jagang Province to reach official expectations that is causing the problem. It has been known for some time that water levels behind the dam at Heecheon are insufficient to meet electricity generation targets.
However, there are other reasons for the current state of affairs, notably events for the 10t0th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and the period of mass mobilization for farming.
According to the source, “Because they wanted it for the April events, most of the electricity coming to Pyongyang went to the Mansudae and Central districts, while the places where most people actually live didn’t get regular supplies. Then in May they started sending most of it to cooperative farms in North Hwanghae Province for the mass farming mobilization.”
Currently, residential areas of the capital are receiving electricity two or three times a day for an hour or two at a time, meaning anything from three to five hours of power per day.