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Drought / Blackouts

Droughts happen in Ecuador!

Precipitation in Cuenca, Ecuador

A drop from 28.3 to 26.3 (2 inches) would cause drought and water-rationing

A drop from 28.3 to 24.3 (4 inches) would make it impossible to sustain a population of 600,000 people in the Cuenca valley


Drought in Ecuador leaves farmers facing financial hardship

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 

Published:7 August 2013 15:30 CET

After four months of no rain in the south of Ecuador, people in the province of Loja are being dramatically affected by the 72 per cent drop in rainfall.

By Diego Castellanos, Ecuador Red Cross

After four months of no rain in the south of Ecuador, people in the province of Loja are being dramatically affected by the 72 per cent drop in rainfall. Located on the mountain range on the Peru border, he province is approximately 11,000 square kilometres and has almost 450,000 inhabitants.

In Loja, the economy is purely agricultural and livestock, so the lack of rainfall has caused losses of corn, peanut and bean crops, as well as a shortage of food and foliage for  livestock. In recent weeks, water levels in streams and rivers have dropped dramatically, causing great concern to the people of Loja, who rely on these sources both for human and animal consumption and for crop irrigation.

The provincial board of Loja and the Ecuadorian Red Cross, with the support of National Technical Risk Management, has begun activities in numerous locations, including under-served areas.

The Ecuadorian Red Cross has had permanent offices in the province of Loja since 1957, and currently has 12 branches, 400 volunteers and 50 administrative technicians in the areas of risk management, health, youth, principles and values, planning and blood bank services, clinical laboratory and an orthopaedic bank.

In the six parishes of the bordering province of Zapotillo, most farmers specialize in planting corn. There are about 10,000 hectares of corn, and estimates indicate that 70 per cent was lost. Osman Romero, one of the farmers affected, believes the losses are worth between 600,000 and 700,000 US dollars.

Farmers are now forced to drive their cattle for an hour and a half in order to find places where the livestock can eat and drink. There are ironic signs posted that read: “Stone rivers found here” – a hint at the meagre water supply that can still be found.

Marlon Castillo, a farmer in one of the counties that is most affected, says he planted two acres of corn and this year he has lost everything because of the lack of rain. Farmers are concerned not only about the current lack of rainfall, but also about their debts, which are mounting.

The Ecuadorian Red Cross – as part of a multi-agency response with the National Secretariat for Risk Management and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries – conducted damage assessment and needs analysis. They identified those cantons in which intervention is needed for the most vulnerable communities, namely, Zapotillo, Paltas, Celica and Macara. The assessment identified a total of 1,025 families who have been affected directly.

Based on the initial damage assessment, the needs to be addressed immediately are food delivery kits, safe water storage tanks, home filters, local irrigation system restoration support, training for families, preparation of animal feed, health, hygiene promotion and water treatment. The IFRC will support this intervention through its emergency support Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, in coordination with the Ecuadorian Red Cross.

From Reliefweb International:

In Ecuador, the complexity of the situation is also compounded by the drought and flooding conditions brought about by the El Niño phenomenon, which is also affecting the earthquake affected Manabí and Esmeraldas provinces.

Ecuador has lost more than USD 7,100 million due to El Niño. It is foreseen that by spring 2016, the production will drop as follows: husked rise 16%, flint maize 22%, sugar 40%, and banana 30%. This will decrease the food security of vulnerable households as well as the local and national economy. In March 2017, WFP assisted 25,400 people, suffering the consequences of food insecurity and heavy rains. 

Another article from Reliefweb International:

As of June 2013, Ecuador’s southern region has gone for four months without rain, with Loja being the most affected province. The provincial economy is completely based on agricultural and livestock. The drought has caused losses in corn, peanut, and bean crops and there is a high scarcity of food and foliage for cattle. An assessment has identified 1,025 directly affected households, all people of limited resources, mostly small-scale farmers, daily wage laborers and livestock producers. They are at the lowest poverty levels in the country and in a zone that has high levels of malnutrition. 


From the Guardian:

Wed 1 Mar 2017 12.04 GMT

Water controlled by the elite in Ecuador

Municipal workers use a water truck to remove stagnant water from a neighbourhood in Chiclayo, Peru. 

Torrential rains, landslides and overflowing rivers have affected over 200,000 since the beginning of the year. 

Photograph: Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Images

On the equator, Ecuador is less vulnerable to water shortages but small farmers have complained bitterly of water grabs by agribusiness and the mining industry. In 2015, following a new water law which allows for further privatization of water and gives mining companies access to scarce water sources in some regions, indigenous movements joined 20 groups of farmers and environmentalists to march from the Amazon region to Quito to demand equal access to water.

Ecuador is the only country in the world whose constitution declares water as a human right, but there is still great inequality of access, says Manuela Picq, a Franco-Brazilian academic at Amherst college, and a former professor at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

The call for water echoes a much larger, 

collective desire for equal 

redistribution and shared responsibility.

Manuela Picq

“It is said that Ecuador’s wealthiest 1% controls 64% of fresh water,” she says. “A single mine can use more water in a day than an entire family in 22 years.”


New politics emerging around water

Picq, who was deported from Ecuadorian 2015 for her work with indigenous movements, sees water as part of a new politics emerging in Andean and central American countries – crossing traditional left and right boundaries, propelled by social movements, and infused with the philosophy of indigenous peoples, which views water as the source of life.

These movements, she says, are acting as a new democratic force, holding governments to account, and strongly opposing the mining industry for its abuse of water.

“[Access to water] is part of a wider political struggle. It is about changing politics so that economies are not based on the extraction of resources,” she says. “It crosses all boundaries and goes well beyond indigenous peoples. The call for water echoes a much larger, collective desire for equal redistribution and shared responsibility that is transmitted across generations.”


Droughts can lead to rolling blackouts of power, too:

2009 Ecuador electricity crisis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shopping by candlelight in a Cuenca 

market during a power cut, November 24, 2009

The 2009 Ecuador electricity crisis was caused by a severe drought that depleted water levels at hydroelectric plants. 

Ecuador experienced rolling blackouts for two to six hours per day that lasted from November 2009 until January 2010.


The electricity crisis arose from Ecuador's worst drought in 40 years, which began in September 2009. Government experts attributed the drought to the El Nino phenomenon. Because of the drought, water levels at the Paute River dam—which normally supplies 40% of Ecuador's power—were extremely low. The reservoir's water level is normally 1,991 meters above sea level, but as of November 10 was only 1,968 meters above sea level. The minimum level is 1,965 meters. As of November 11, only two of the dam's 10 turbines were functioning. Normally, the dam can supply up to 1,000 megawatts (MW), but the dam's output was only 200 MW as of November 11.

Left: View of Calle Larga, Cuenca, at 6:33 pm. On this day, the scheduled blackout occurred earlier in the day. 

Right: View of Calle Larga, Cuenca, at 7:04 pm. On this day, there was a scheduled blackout from 7-10 pm.


Beginning November 5, rolling blackouts took place across Ecuador for two to six hours per day. Government officials also urged citizens to conserve energy. Economic losses from the blackouts are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars; factory output slowed, and storage of perishables was disrupted.

On November 6, the government declared an emergency in the power sector, which was expected to "allow the Finance Ministry to seek to guarantee fuel imports for thermoelectric plants". The government also agreed to purchase additional electricity from Peru and Colombia.

Government officials aimed to end power rationing before Christmas.

The power crisis led to criticism of the Correa administration's management of the power sector as water levels of the reservoirs became depleted.

In mid-January 2010, the blackouts were "suspended indefinitely", following increased water levels and the acquisition of several generators. In February, Ecuador stopped the import of electricity from Colombia and Peru.


Drought Blamed for Blackouts in Ecuador

Latin American Herald Tribune

PAUTE, Ecuador – 

Alarmingly low water levels at the hydroelectric power station in this southern Ecuadorian city are to blame for recurrent blackouts in the Andean nation over the past week, authorities say.

The reservoir water level at the dam on the Paute River, one of Ecuador’s largest, stood at 1,968 meters (6,450 feet) above sea level on Tuesday, compared with an average level of 1,991 meters and and a minimum level of 1,965 meters.

This 25-year-old facility meets approximately 40 percent of Ecuador’s total power needs, but at present only two of its 10 turbines are in operation and cannot guarantee more than 200 MW of electricity between them.

“I’d never seen this so empty,” said one of the employees who accompanied reporters on a quick tour of the state-owned plant’s installations.

Paute can supply up to 20,000 MW per hour under normal conditions, but present output has fallen to just 4,000-5,000 MW per hour amid a severe drought.

Low rainfall amounts began causing alarm in September, traditionally a rainy month in Ecuador, and concerns grew further when the drought continued into October.

Residents of Quito, Guayaquil and other cities were hit with surprise nationwide blackouts last Thursday, while the government has called on citizens to reduce consumption as it seeks ways of mitigating the energy crisis.

Just a few miles from Paute, work is continuing on the new Mazar dam “to increase power generation at the Paute plant,” National Electricity Council Chairman Fernando Izquierdo said, though he added that production at Mazar would not start until next April.

Although drought conditions are expected to persist until December, an optimistic Izquierdo said expectations are for the country’s energy supply to increase next week. However, he still urged consumers to continue to conserve energy.

In that sense, he predicted that the current electricity rationing program – which includes power cuts of roughly four hours a day – could be reduced in half beginning next week.

A key factor in the improved outlook is a possible deal to import 1,200 MW per hour from northern Peru to meet demand in the southern Ecuadorian province of El Oro, Izquierdo said.

Colombia’s contribution will be smaller since that country is also suffering from drought conditions and, in a best case scenario, could offer Ecuador some 450 MW per hour.