EFECaracas

The Venezuelan government initiated an "extraordinary plan" to deal with a three-year-long drought that is predicted to become even more severe in the coming months, Water Minister Ernesto Paiva said Monday.

The plan includes water rationing, a water savings campaign and the "correction of water leaks" at aqueducts around the country, aalong with the eradication of "illegal water use," Paiva told state-run television.

Paiva confirmed that the El Niño weather phenomenon will make the coming months even drier in northern South America and will lead to flooding in the Southern Cone.

"Toward the south there is rain and today there are flooded cities in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, (while) toward the north ... there is drought," and in Venezuela "we're coming from three dry years and projections are that it's going to rain very little in the coming months and we must prepare outselves," he said.

The 18 largest reservoirs in Venezuela are "very close to the red line" and others have already reached "critical levels," he said showing photographs of low water levels.

"We cannot waste any water ... (and) we have to make adjustments in the supply plans and ask for (public) understanding (because) it's up to us to administer the water so that it doesn't run out on us," he said.

Since Jan. 4, a "fair supply" plan has been implemented in Caracas and nearby cities that includes, he said, rationing water on 5-6 days of the week and opening the taps only during the morning hours.

In 2014, the drought was "extreme to severe" in nine of Venezuela's 24 states, forcing authorities to resort to seeding clouds.