The successive heat waves that Argentina is going through, marked by a global warming that led to a drought unprecedented in six decades, ended up causing a major short-circuit between the Nation and the provinces that have active hydroelectric power plants. In order to meet the increasing demand of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA), the Energy Secretariat asked districts such as Neuquén and Río Negro to increase the rate of generation. But the provinces expressed their opposition as they seek to conserve water in the reservoirs to guarantee irrigation and the availability of the resource for households in that area in Patagonia.
The requests for more generation have been repeated by the Wholesale Electricity Market Administration Company (CAMMESA), which last week asked the Inter-jurisdictional Basin Authority (AIC) for an increased electricity supply from the dams installed on the Limay River.
Specifically, CAMMESA requested a larger water disbursement in the Alicurá and El Chocón reservoirs. Although the company's request was complied with, the fact is that the uneasiness has not ceased to multiply among the political sectors of that region due to the water emergency that Neuquén and Río Negro are also going through.
The increase in the flow that is allowed to pass through to increase energy production implies a volume of fresh water that ends up directly in the sea. In the Patagonian provinces, they understand that this action only complicates the hard supply scenario faced by the districts.
Increased use of water in hydroelectric plants: the controversy
"I did not approve the increased disbursement. That was approved by the president of the AIC who answers to the Nation, Daniel Figueroa, and the representative for Río Negro, Fernando Curetti", Elías Sapag, representative of Neuquén in the AIC, said in the last hours.
"The river levels are at their lowest levels in more than 100 years and that is why a water emergency has been declared," he added.
The area around the Limay accumulates more than 80 consecutive days without rain and a context of aggravated drought that has been going on for years. Without taking this into account, CAMMESA imposed its demand and managed to increase the amount of water used to increase hydroelectric power generation from 314 cubic meters per second to 600 cubic meters per second.
Such a volume raised the uneasiness among a good part of the members of the AIC and there is no lack of voices that speak of an incipient internal fracture, which could result in powerful clashes with the Energy Secretariat, due to the use of the water generated by the Limay and its movement towards the Negro River.
In the last few days, the AIC made official the increase of the disbursement but without detailing if it will be an exceptional measure or, in any case, it will be prolonged through the months.
"It is reported that as of today, Tuesday, March 7, the flow of the Limay River, disbursed by the Arroyito compensator, may reach 600 m3/s, due to a greater generation required from the El Chocón power plant, by the Agency in charge of the Electric Dispatch," the agency indicated on its institutional site.
A historic drought
According to monitoring by the Drought Information System for Southern South America (SISSA), 60 percent of Argentina's surface area, that is, 1,499,780 square kilometers, is in a drought situation.
The core zone, the region with the greatest agribusiness dominance, is seriously affected by the water deficit. In the province of Santa Fe there is not a single hectare that is not dry: 18.8 percent of that district suffers an exceptional drought, while in 37.1 percent of the area the situation is extreme, in 36.91 percent it is severe and in the remaining 7 percent it is moderate.
Entre Ríos, on the other hand, is experiencing exceptional drought in 36.6 percent of its area. Half of the province is in an extreme situation and 12.8 percent of its area is in severe deficit conditions.