Baits OutBaits Out Posts: 12,328 AG
Low Water Levels Mean Lights May Go Out in Caracas

Water levels critical at main dam providing Caracas's power
Key threshold could be reached as early as end of April

Over the past three years, Venezuelans have seen shortages of food, water, toilet paper and medicine. In some areas of the country, electricity has been curtailed.

Now, the lights may go out in the nation’s capital.

A prolonged drought blamed on the El Nino weather system has dropped water levels to a critical threshold at the Guri Dam, the hydroelectric plant that supplies Caracas with most of its electricity. Without rain, there could be rolling blackouts in Venezuela’s largest city by the end of April, said Cesar Cardozo, a retired engineer who managed turbines at the facility in the 1980s.

If so, it could further erode confidence in the three-year-old government of President Nicolas Maduro, according to the Eurasia Group, a global research and consulting firm. In 2015, the country’s economy -- largely dependent on the sale of oil -- contracted by 10 percent and is expected to shrink by an additional 6 percent this year. The currency has lost 98 percent of its value on the black market since Maduro took office in 2013.

‘Social Discontent’

“Guri dam provides 75% of the power generation for Caracas, so the capital -- previously shielded from issues such as outages and rationing due to its political importance -- is extremely vulnerable,” Eurasia said in a March 21 report. More frequent power outages “will increase already high levels of social discontent.”

Water levels at the dam, located in southern Bolivar state, fell to 244.9 meters above sea level on March 29, according to data from Corpoelec, the state-run power company. Below 240 meters, vortexes can form and damage the turbines, said Miguel Lara, a former director of Venezuela’s power grid.

“At the current rhythm, the minimum level to operate the 8 turbines could be reached by April 30th,” Cardozo said in an interview. “That date could be extended into May if more severe rationing is implemented.”

Victor Poleo, a former vice minister of electricity who has been critical of the government, blamed poor planning by the government and a lack of maintenance by Corpoelec at the hydroelectric plant.

“The government was irresponsible in not bringing online" other methods to generate electricity, Poleo said in an interview. “Now we’ve reached the point where the only option will be more rationing.”

Sabotage Blamed

A Corpoelec spokesperson declined comment, saying no one knowledgeable was available to talk because of the reduced hours put in place at government offices to conserve energy. Maduro’s ruling socialist party has in the past blamed the water and electricity shortages on a combination of El Nino and “sabotage” by political foes.

“Protests started at the same time as the electric system was attacked,” the current electricity minister, Luis Motta Dominguez, said on March 12, referring to protests and power outages that occurred away from the capital. “What ... a coincidence, no? A plan was put in place.”

In March, Maduro extended the Easter holiday to 5 days in an effort to conserve electricity, following a similar action by former President Hugo Chavez in 2010, when the when the country faced a similar time of drought. “We’re hoping, God willing, rains will come,” Maduro said in a national address at the time. “We’re reaching a difficult place that we’re trying to manage.”
Cylindrical Basin

It didn’t help. Earlier this year, levels at the dam, which holds back the largest body of fresh water in the country, had been falling by about 15 centimeters a day, according to Jose Aguilar, an independent electricity analyst who studies Venezuela. The basin, though, is cylindrical, growing smaller as it becomes deeper, and the losses are getting larger.

On March 29 and 30, the water fell by 18 centimeters, Aguilar said in a telephone interview.

“This is the first time that Guri has operated at such a low level,” Aguilar said. “Technical studies developed for the dam recommend not operating if water levels are below 240 meters. The word ‘collapse’ comes up in the actual documentation for the plant.”

Increasing power outages could further complicate Maduro’s hold on power as he battles an opposition-controlled congress that has already vowed to oust him.

“The political crisis in Venezuela has been a slow process of erosion,” said Gerardo Reyes, a political analyst and professor at the Catholic University in Caracas, in an interview. “Anything that brings more popular discontent could activate a governance crisis.”

A southeast Florida laid back beach bum and volunteer bikini assessor who lives on island time. 


  • rickcrickc Posts: 9,172 Admiral
    5 happiest countries in the world

    Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden
  • cprcpr Posts: 9,309 Admiral
    rickc wrote: »
    5 happiest countries in the world

    Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden

    Those countries are about the size of a mid-size state and until recently all had citizens who spoke the same language and had a genetic heritage. Think Vt, Utah, Idaho.
    "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." F. Scott Fitzgerald

    "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." Niels Bohr
  • Team SabatageTeam Sabatage Posts: 12,873 AG
    Yep. socialist, country problems for sure.

    "Since 1999, the water level at Lake Mead has plunged 130 feet to a low of 1081 feet above sea level in July 2014. Levels below 1,084 feet have not been recorded since a period of sustained drought in 1956. With low water levels at Lake Mead, Hoover Dam’s electricity output has been significantly curtailed. In July, the facility was derated from 2,074 megawatts to 1,592 megawatts. Going forward, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects that Hoover Dam power production will fall again to 1,120 megawatts by May 2015."

    " Glen Canyon Dam, at the southern tip of Lake Powell, is the largest hydropower producer in Reclamation’s Colorado River Storage Project. As a result of lower water levels, power production there is also expected to drop by 8 percent in 2014 from 2013 levels. At Lake Powell, when the water level drops below 3,490 feet above sea level, 100 feet below its August 2013 level, vortex action would draw air into the turbines and damage them"
    Strap me in, tie me down and roll me a bone, I'm getting on an airplane and I'm flying home...
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