The extraordinary swelling of the river put Neuquén and Río Negro in a difficult position. The dams that the governments of Omar Gutiérrez and Arabela Carreras seek to co-manage with the Nation as the concession contracts expire, are the ones that must now open their floodgates towards the valleys in a maneuver that already causes serious disturbances on the banks and that is likely to intensify. The voices that began to be heard against this water management ignore that it is the only possible tool to avoid a major catastrophe, which could include insurmountable damage to disputed hydraulic works and cities.
The statistics speak for themselves: 17 years ago the Neuquén River came down from the north with more than 10,000 cubic meters per second, but a month before it had reached a peak of 3,000. This week that mark was placed between 7,000 and 8,000 cubic meters per second, Who dares to say that in the long months that remain of the winter, a similar phenomenon will not occur again?
How long can dams withstand floods like this?
To prevent this possible circumstance, it is necessary to lower the levels of the two reservoirs that now store the bulk of the flood, Los Barreales and Mari Menuco.
• Los Barreales can grow in an extraordinary way up to a height of 422.5 meters above sea level (masl); today it is at 416.31 masl and experience indicates that it should drop 414 to receive eventual new contributions of water.
• Mari Menuco (which receives what the Loma de la Lata dam lets through from Los Barreales) now has a height of 413.43 meters above sea level, which is almost the maximum normal mark for this time of year; It could grow up to 415 meters above sea level in an extraordinary way, but it would have no rest.
If these two reservoirs could not absorb the water from an eventual new flood, the dams would collapse, we would lose facilities, generated energy, flow control, but above all we would have entire cities under water and key hydrocarbon production facilities failing.
Dam gates open
That is why it is necessary for the river to reach Vista Alegre, Centenario, Neuquén, Cipolletti with these flows and it is possible that even higher ones; It is the way to drive such a mass out of the reservoirs. On the banks, progress was made on land that belongs to the river because it is something almost natural.
In cubic meters it is perhaps difficult to measure what happened. Another average of volume is more eloquent: 7,000,000 liters per second came down the river from the north of Neuquén, that is to say: 420,000,000 liters per minute or 25,000 million liters per hour.
«It may be thought that 4 or 5 meters still free in Los Barreales are sufficient and prudent, but what happens if the weather does not respond according to that opinion? And who assumes that discrepancy with nature? », He told BLACK RIVER a specialized engineer who preferred not to appear with his name.
Neuquén and Río Negro want to be part of the management of the dams starting next August 11, when the first privatizations expire. But first you have to take care of them.