Colombia faces energy rationing, reservoirs at lowest levels in 20 years

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The Guatapé reservoir in the department of Antioquia. Photo: Richard Emblin

Colombia is teetering on the brink of energy rationing following a warning issued by XM, the entity entrusted with the operation of the National Interconnected System (SIN). According to XM, the water levels in reservoirs that generate electricity for Colombia’s largest urban centers have plummeted to levels not seen in over two decades.

“As of the latest data, the average useful volume of the system stands at a precarious 31.86%,” reads the official XM statement, highlighting “a dire situation that demands immediate intervention from authorities to safeguard against a nightmare scenario of widespread power outages.”

The prospect that Bogotá could face power outages and strict measures to conserve water in households and businesses has been accompanied by an announcement from Mayor Carlos Fernando Galán, stating that reservoir levels “are critical” and that “a very insistent call to save water has not been enough.”

The Mayor will meet with President Gustavo Petro on Thursday to discuss which measures could be implemented in Bogotá next week to curtail energy consumption. Mayor Galán’s warning that Bogotanos should prepare for energy-saving measures aligns with XM’s reasoning that nationwide measures are “indispensable to mitigate the strain on the already depleted reservoirs and ensure the stability of the national power grid.”

Among the hardest-hit regions with almost depleted reservoirs is the Eastern Plains, Llanos Orientales, where water levels are just above 8%. In the Central region, reserves are at 49%, and in the department of Antioquia, at 34%. With a national average at 31%, Colombia is just four points above the 27% threshold that triggers a national alert.

On April 1, President Petro announced four measures to be immediately implemented by all entities of the Executive to save electricity and water. Among these measures is the “implementation and adjustment of homework schemes for employees and contractors.” Presidential Directive No.1 was announced as the El Niño weather phenomenon continues to affect the entire country