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Colombia - Utilities

There have been many developments in the supply of utilities in Colombia over the last few decades. For a long time a large percentage of the population did not have access to basic utility services. The current access to fresh drinking water and sanitation is still not 100%. Those who are slipping through the net are the people resident in rural areas. The quality of drinking water and sanitation supplied is not good. Only around 70% receive water that is considered to be safe to drink. The country now has a policy in place which aims to improve these services to all citizens. Water services are overseen by the Vice-Ministry of Water and Sanitation, although they are managed on a day to day basis by a mix of private and public companies.

There are many public utility companies, particularly in the larger cities. Some of them will deal solely with water services, while others will be providing electricity and some telecommunications services. One example is a company called Emcali which provides Internet, drinking water, sanitation, electricity and some phone lines for over half a million homes.

Electricity is produced via the use of renewable power, a combination of hydro generated electricity and thermally generated power. Only around 90% of the population have access to mains electricity, but only 55% of people in urban areas have access to electricity. This leaves approximately 2 million people with no mains power. There are some difficulties with bringing power to some of the remote areas but there is a programme in place to overcome this and gradually bring all residents up to the same level.

There are regular power cuts and most users will suffer nearly 200 each year, though these tend to be of a short duration. The system used is 110 volts and the plugs on electrical appliances are of the two pin variety, as in the United States. Adaptors are widely available in the larger towns.

Connecting to utility services is relatively easy. If you are renting or buying a property then often the estate agent or landlord can help to arrange the connections for you. As an expat you may be expected to pay a large deposit, particularly if you are new to the country, but you will also have to present identification and proof of your status of residency. If utility bills are included in your rent this should be arranged for you by your landlord.

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