ColombiaOne.comColombia newsEffects of El Niño: Colombian Reservoirs Below 50%

Effects of El Niño: Colombian Reservoirs Below 50%


Colombian reservoirs
Colombian Reservoirs Below 50% due to El Niño Phenomenon – Credit: Philipp Weigell / CC BY 3.0

Colombian reservoirs are half empty during this month of February, as the El Niño phenomenon continues to affect the climate. Last weekend, the reserves of Colombian reservoirs stood at 49.3% of their capacity. This figure is explained by the fact that the accumulated water contributions as of February 17 were 56.4% lower than the accumulated average for the month, historically 71.6%. Although the reservoirs have not yet reached critical levels of below 35%, experts say that we must be on the alert.

This situation is not only worrying for water supply, but also in terms of electricity generation. In Colombia, 70% of this energy is produced from hydroelectric plants. In January, the aggregate level of the system’s reservoir for electric power generation stood at 55.79 % of the useful volume. This is 14.41 points below the level of 70.19% reported at the close of December 2023. Also, contributions for the month stood at 53.93 % of the historical average, a reduction consistent with the El Niño conditions that have been affecting the country for the last three months.

Situation of alert, not alarm

Although the situation is worrisome and authorities have requested vigilance, they have also given reassurance that there is no reason for alarm, since water levels in reservoirs are still relatively high for the dry season that lasts until the end of March.

Thus, for example, water reserves in reservoirs at the end of January were 3.46 points above the level reported at the end of January 2016, the year in which the last El Niño phenomenon occurred in Colombia. Although total reserves in the country are around 49%, the most critical situation is experienced in the eastern basins, where the amount of water in the reservoirs is at 33.3%, almost two points below the critical level.

In the rest of the country, the situation is less worrying. By regions, those above 50% are Antioquia (52.6%), Centro (53.27%), Valle (56.59%) and Caribe (67.35%). In this last region, the problems in water supply, especially in the Magdalena region, where Santa Marta and La Guajira are located, are due to a historical deficit in water management, but not to a lack of water, since this is the region where most water accumulates in the reservoirs.

Colombian reservoirs
Power supply not in danger, authorities say – Credit: Moises Alvarez / CC BY-SA 3-0

Waiting for April

According to reports from the authorities, although the country is feeling the impact of a particularly harsh dry season due to the natural phenomenon of El Niño, it is expected that the end of this period and the beginning of the rainy season, starting in April, will see the recovery of the amount of water lost in this exceptional drought.

In the meantime, in Colombia, they assure, there will be no large-scale electricity supply or water supply problems, beyond specific problems in small rural municipalities or in sectors of the coast, where there are traditionally water supply problems for other reasons, as would be the case of Santa Marta.

In these next two months, the population is advised to save as much water as possible, and not to light fires in rural or cultivated areas, in order to avoid an outbreak of wildfires like the one that devastated some areas in January.

Although the phenomenon will officially end in May, a measure of relief from these negative effects is expected in Colombia starting in March and April, when temperatures will normalize and the usual rainfall of these months will begin.

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