Heavy rain brings drought relief and landslides; City utility says watershed, reservoirs have been refilled

Dec 28, 2023 | 0 comments

Rains that fell over most of the country on Tuesday and Wednesday have refilled rivers and reservoirs but have also caused landslides and flooding. “There is always the bad side effects of heavy rain but, on balance, this is very good news since it brings drought relief and the prospect that life can return to normal,” said a spokeswoman for the national meteorological service (Inamhi).

Cuenca’s four rivers were flowing at above-normal rates Wednesday afternoon with flooding reported in several areas.

Among the bad side effects are dozens of landslides that have blocked roads, including the highway connecting Cuenca to the Yunguilla Valley and Macahala. Rivers have overflowed their banks in dozens of locations, flooding homes, neighborhoods and pastures.

On Wednesday, Cuenca’s utility company ETAPA announced that the 118-day drought was over and that the city’s drinking water reservoirs and the watershed that feeds them in the Cajas Mountains have been “fully recharged.” ETAPA said plans for all water rationing have been suspended.

ETAPA also said the Cuenca’s four rivers were flowing at above-normal levels at mid-afternoon Wednesday, with flooding occurring in several locations on the Rios Tomebamba and Yanuncay. “We urge residents to stay away from riverbanks in high-water conditions as the banks have been undercut and are subject to collapse,” ETAPA said in a bulletin.

Although it has made no announcement, Ecuador’s Energy Ministry is expected suspend electricity blackouts next week, at least in the short term. “We do not have new data on the waterflow situation at the Rio Paute hydro generations plants but we know it has improved considerably in the last 48 hours,” ETAPA said in its statement. “The rivers that flow through Cuenca discharge into the Rio Paute. We expect to hear from them on Thursday or Friday about future power rationing plans.”

As a result of rainfall last week, the Ministry had suspended blackouts until January 2.

The Transportation Ministry reported Wednesday night that efforts to clear the Cuenca-Girón-Machala highway near Girón had been suspended until Friday morning. Heavy equipment had cleared the highway earlier Wednesday, but new landslides closed it again in the afternoon.

In Cuenca, several roadways collapsed on Wednesday due to flooding although the city transportation office said that traffic flow was restored by midnight.

Rainfall totals in the central and southern sierra averaged 45 millimeters (1.75 inches) for the preceding 24-hour period but some weather stations reported as much as 70 millimeters (2.75 inches).

For Thursday and Friday, Inamhi forecasts more rain showers but says they will be less intense and shorter in duration than Wednesday’s.

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