Weekend rains fill rivers and bring drought relief, but ‘we need 30 more days of it’

Dec 18, 2023 | 1 comment

Cuenca’s Rio Tomebamba was running full over the weekend, thanks to two days of rain.

Cuenca’s four rivers were flowing at normal levels Sunday night following two days of rain. “The rivers are temporarily replenished and the city’s drinking water reservoirs have refilled,” the municipal drinking water authority, ETAPA, reports.

ETAPA’s hydrometeorological office said that Cuenca’s two largest rivers, the Tomebamba and Yanuncay were showing flow levels of 7.9 and 6.3 cubic meters per second at readings taken Sunday afternoon.

“More important than river flow rates for Cuenca’s drinking water supply is that the watershed near our processing facilities in the Cajas mountains have been partially restored,” ETAPA said. “We caution, however, that we need much more rain for a return to normal and water rationing is still possible if dry conditions return.”

Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy also reports that rains between Friday and Sunday have boosted reservoir levels at the country’s hydroelectric generation plants. A spokeswoman for the ministry said that light to moderate rainfall fell over much of the eastern intermountain valley and in the watershed to east of the mountains.

“We have received welcome relief this weekend and hope to receive more,” she said. “The rain is not enough to change our schedule of electricity blackouts but this will be evaluated if rain continues through the week. The reality is that we need at least 30 days of rain to restore the watersheds near the rivers that provide most of Ecuador’s electricity.”

On Sunday, the national meteorological agency said more rain is expected, due to high moisture levels in the western Amazon region, but added that rainfall totals “will drop off as the week progresses.”

According to Energy Ministry officials, the major concern remains the low electric generation rate at three Paute River plants. Under normal circumstances, the plants produce 40% of the country’s electricity supply but, since early November, are producing an average of only 15% of total supply.

Due to the rains, the ministry some local utility companies may reduce blackout hours from three to two hours a day.

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