Monday, July 31, 2006
I slept last Friday in the Salasaca Indians village of Pillaro, on the fuming Tungurahua volcano. I was feted with a double portion of cuy hornado - a ratlike creature cooked in its own skin. I liked it. Then I was honoured with a show by a dance group made up of 12 - 16 year old girls, who danced a rather monotone and easy dance, which I joined. Of course I had to stop in 20 minutes, I am not used to those altitudes. I slept in a bed made from local reeds, very confortable. Now, back in Kfar Saba, I am writing the report. It was a nice trip.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
1- Descripción del sistema.
En rasgos generales el sistema se basa en la captación de las escorrentías superficiales a un altitud de 4000 a 4250 msnm.
a) PICALTINGO Caudal asignado 8.98 L/seg.
b) YANAJACA. Caudal asignado 10.75 L/seg.
c) SIGSITOMA Caudal asignado 19.94 L/seg.
d) PIRCA PAMBA Caudal asignado 1.24 L/seg.
e) CERRO CHIMBO HUAÑANA Caudal asignado 3.12 L/seg.
TOTAL 44.03 L/seg.
Actualmente el agua de las captaciones es conducida a través de un canal de tierra que comienza en Picar tingo y pasa por la otra toma hasta la cabecera de distribución en la LARCA LOMA, 3844 msnm. La longitud estimada del canal es de 13 Km. con un desnivel total de 402m, y con una pendiente promedio del 3%.
De la cabecera el agua es distribuida por la Junta a los agricultores de la comunidad indígena del Larca loma, para regar pastos y otros cultivos, así como uso domestico.
2- Eficiencia del Aprovechamiento del Agua.
Un examen rápido de la eficiencia de aprovechamiento del agua indica:
a) A Nivel de Captación: se estima que corrigiendo el diseño deficiente y el deterioro por la edad, la producción podría elevarse por lo menos en un 30 %. por lo que el aprovechamiento actuales del orden del 77 % del potencial existente.
b) Conducción: se estima que el 50 % del agua es perdida durante la travesía por los 13 Km. de canal de tierra por efecto de la infiltración, evaporación y perdidas varias.
c) Distribución: se estima en un 10 % hasta el lote regado.
d) Riego: el sistema usado representa una pérdida del 70 % con respecto a sistema de presión como aspersión o goteo.
e) Desaprovechamiento Estacional: el sistema es aprovechado efectivamente durante el verano mientras que en el invierno, cuando no se riega, se deja correr el agua. Ello significa que el 43 % del agua captada no es utilizada.
Si consideramos que el uso potencial total es 100%, el uso actual sería el siguiente:
100 x 0.77 x 0.5 x 0.9 x 0.57=19.75%, redondeando, aprovechamiento de 20%.
Ello significa, en grandes rasgos que existe un alto potencial para un aprovechamiento más eficiente del agua, que constituye un recurso finito y en detectable disminución en la zona.
3- El Entorno Ecológico.
Las fuentes del agua del la comunidad indígena del Arca loma proceden de:
a) Derretimiento de la cobertura de hielo del volcán Chimborazo
b) Precipitaciones invernales.
No existen mediciones de la climatología regional por lo que este proyecto se basa en estimaciones. La producción de estas dos fuentes varía estacionalmente, así, las captaciones que alimentan al ciudad de Guaranda, que son idénticas a las aquí consideradas, producen 100 L/seg. en el mes pico invernal y 60 L/seg. en el mes de mínima estival. No se dispone de datos sobre variaciones interanuales pero se a recabado la impresión general de que la capa del Chimborazo se halla en perceptible retroceso y que las temperaturas medias han ascendido al punto de posibilitar el cultivo de papa y de cultivo forrajeros el comuna Larca Loma.
Dada la riqueza de los recursos superficiales, el recurso subterráneo no ha sido atendido en la zona. Un estudio hidrogeológico preliminar ha producido resultados desalentadores. La prospección de zonas adicionales continúa en la actualidad, pero se considera que inversionen el aprovechamiento del 80 % perdido de los recursos existentes seria mas inmediato y rentable que las inversiones en el desarrollo de fuentes subterráneas, siempre que éstas existan.
4- El Proyecto Propuesto.
El proyecto consta de varias unidades que pueden ser realizadas por etapas.
a) Entubamiento. Se trata de entubar la conducción de agua de las captaciones a la cabecera de distribución en Larca Loma. El trazo existente podrá ser mejorado para ajustarse las curvas de contorno y lograr una pendiente promedio mas moderado del 2 %. Ello significará posiblemente que la longitud total de la tubería alcance 15 Km. La conducción será por gravedad a presión lo que permitiría riego por aspersión o goteo sin necesidad de bombas por lo menos en una parte de la superficie cultivada. Este elemento del proyecto duplicara los volúmenes disponibles.
b) Almacenamiento Estacional. Los excedentes desaprovechados en el invierno serán almacenados en uno o varios reservorios. Para ello se requiere una capacidad de almacenamiento de unos 600 mil metros cúbicos (con entubado), o 300 mil metros cúbicos con el sistema de conducción actual. Las condiciones topográficas son favorables para la construcción de reservorios y existe disponibilidad de tierra volcánica impermeable y otras materias primas. La construcción de capacidad de almacenamiento invernal puede ser realizado a través de dos o tres reservorios por etapas.
c) Riego por presión. se trata de un mejoramiento cuyos beneficios y cuya tecnología es conocida por la región
5- Estimado de costos.
El estimado contiene únicamente materiales ya que la mano de obra será provista por los usuarios.
Para el elemento de entubamiento de la conducción, considerado prioritario, se preveen los siguientes materiales:
· 15 Kilómetros de tubo de PVC o equivalente de 8 pulgadas de diámetro.
· 5 Cajas de admisión con válvulas de cierre.
· 5 Cajas de derivación con válvulas.
· 1 Tanque regulador de 100 metros cúbicos.
· 10 Llaves de media pulgada y respectivas conexiones.
Costo Referencial Total: 400.000 $ US
Plazo de Implementación: 18 meses (incluye 4 meses de diseño detallado)
(1) El Gobierno de Tungurahua ha asumido la responsabilidad de ejecutar o promover la construcción de obras como la Central Hidroeléctrica San Francisco y el Canal de Riego Píllaro.
(2) Apoyar los esfuerzos de los usuarios de los canales de riego dado que el principal problema de Tungurahua es la falta de riego.
(3) El Banco del Estado BEDE financiaria los proyectos urbanos:Plan Maestro de Alcantarillado de la Zona Norte de Ambato (3.855.000 dólares); redes de agua potable de la zona norte de Ambato (2.855.000
dólares), proyecto de Agua Potable de la zona de Santa Rosa y aledaños
(1.550.000 dólares); Plan Maestro de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Baños
(1.550.000), Proyecto de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Cevallos (800.000
dólares), Proyecto de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Mocha (250.000 dólares),
sistema de Agua Potable de San Pablo de Morogacho para Patate (653.696
dólares); Proyecto de Alcantarillado Sanitario de Patate (246.311 dólares); Plan
Maestro de Alcantarillado de Agua Potable de Pelielo (1.512.107 dólares);
Proyecto de Alcantarillado y Agua Potable de Píllaro (360.000 dólares), Sistema
de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Quero (915.884 dólares); Alcantarillado
Sanitario y Pluvial de Quero (800.000 dólares); Proyecto de Alcantarillado para las
zonas de Santa Lucía y La Libertad de Tisaleo (537.673 dólares); y, para el
Proyecto de Aguas Subterráneas para el cantón Tisaleo (134.329 dólares). En
total, el crédito que analizará el BEDE asciende a 16.020.000 dólares.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
- Preparing my next mission to the High Andes in Ecuador, where I shall work on water supply and use problems, I came about many confirmations of the glacier melting problem. Americans tend to describe this natural phenomenon in spiritual or moral terms, Pachamama is angry because of human sinfulness.
Like many of the Quichua-speaking indigenous people who make their homes at the base of this western Andean volcano Ramos relies on the mountain for food, water and spiritual strength. But lately, residents of the town of Cotacachi and the 43 indigenous communities that surround it some 30,000 people in all have noticed changes in their once familiar environment.
In the last five years, the ice cap on Cotacachi's craggy peak—there for as long as anyone could remember—has vanished, leaving her bare and brown. Since then, farmers complain that creeks they've relied on for years no longer give enough water to sustain their small plots of corn, potatoes, and beans. Waterfalls where shamans once performed healing ceremonies have all but disappeared. "We realize that it doesn't snow much anymore, and that the soil is drier every day," Ramos says. "Many people say they have no water in their irrigation ditches. When the corn harvest begins in the summer, it is like a desert here. Everything is ugly."
As conflicts break out over scarce resources, the struggle to explain Cotacachi's water woes has divided inhabitants between old and young, indigenas and mestizos (people of mixed race), townspeople and country folk. The older Quichuas whisper that Mama Cotacachi is aging, just like a person, and she must be taken care of so she will continue to produce. Young fieldworkers curse greedy plantation owners for hogging the water for themselves. Some townspeople blame the glacier's disappearance on merchants who climbed Cotacachi by donkey, hacked off chunks of ice, and carried them down to sell in the market below.
But science offers a different explanation, one that is gaining credence with younger mestizos who have studied outside Cotacachi. Rising global temperatures are melting glaciers throughout South America. At its relatively low height of 16,000 feet, Cotacachi was one of the first Andean mountains to lose its ice cap. Scientists predict that most small glaciers in the mountain range will disappear in the next two decades; 80 percent of glaciers in nearby Bolivia will likely be gone by 2015. The glaciers' retreat could contribute to water shortages and flash floods across the continent. If the warming trend continues, Cotacachi's problems may be a troubling sign of what lies ahead.
Scientists refer to the line between a glacier's top half, where snow is accumulating, and its bottom half, where it is melting, as the line of equilibrium. In warming weather, the line of equilibrium may rise and the glacier can begin to retreat, giving off increasing amounts of water. Zapata believes that as Cotacachi's glacier retreated, the rush of meltwater cascaded from the peak into Laguna Cuicocha and the rivers and creeks below, providing an ample supply for the area's growing population. Other rivers that descended directly from the peak also swelled with the increased runoff. When the glacier disappeared, however, that flow began to dry up, leaving residents more dependent on rainwater. It also made for harsher droughts. A glacier acts like a bank account, storing precipitation during the wet season to release later when the weather becomes dry. With the account drawn down and the glacier gone, Zapata believes, Cotacachi's farmers are no longer insulated against changes in rain patterns.
B. Francou (Rolex Award) studies the Cotopaxi (Antizana) active volcano that feeds Quito. The glacier has shrunk from 21 sq km in 1976 to about 12 - 14 today. What worries Francou is an explosion of the Cotopaxi, sending water and debris down to the valley. The total amount of water in the glacier is estimated 500 million cubic meter. The glacier system is dynamic, it is always retreating or advancing. We are now in a phase of fast retreat, but nothing solid that links this retreat with human activity.
Ecuador has much foreign exchange income from oil. Some of the money will find its way to water projects. What kind of projects could be useful? The reactivation of dead hydroelectric systems? Irrigation with pressure systems? Reservoirs?
Un Israeli en Ambato escribe...: El proyecto Legumbres de Invernadero en la región de los Andes: Dedico una parte de mi tiempo al gran número de pequeños y medianos agricultores de la región montañosa de los Andes en Ecuador, que se concentran en los fértiles valles de los alrededores de las ciudades de Quito y Ambato. Hasta hace muy poco, ellos se dedicaban principalmente a la agricultura tradicional, no especialmente redituable. Las condiciones climáticas en los valles de las montañas son excelentes para el cultivo de diversas hortalizas. Sin embargo, debido a las lluvias esporádicas y a las temperaturas relativamente bajas, éstas deben ser cultivadas en invernaderos. El secreto del cultivo en invernadero es conocido desde hace mucho tiempo por los grandes agricultores de la zona, aunque ellos se concentran mayormente en las flores.
En 1995, llegamos a un acuerdo de asociación entre la Embajada de Israel y la Universidad Agrícola de Ambato, en cuyo marco establecimos un centro de demostración para el cultivo de legumbres de invernadero dentro de la universidad. Organizamos, además, varios seminarios sobre el tema, en universidades de otras partes de la zona montañosa de Ecuador (Riobamba, Loja y Universidad de Quito). La idea fue aceptada con entusiasmo por los agricultores, quienes descubrieron que, a pesar del costo inicial relativamente alto, los ingresos obtenidos posteriormente, mediante cosechas superiores y calidad muy mejorada, eran incomparablemente mayores.
En la actualidad, pueden verse innumerables nuevos invernaderos, que producen mayormente verduras. En consecuencia, las hortalizas que aparecen hoy en los supermercados son de calidad muy superior a las que se conocían hace sólo poco tiempo atrás. Los principales productos son: tomates, pimientos, pepinos, maíz dulce y melones, muchos de ellos, de especies israelíes.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Public water infrastructure projects in Israel are awarded following standard procedures to ensure fairness and honesty. Dishonesty is almost inexistent, normally, you cannot bribe an Israeli bureaucrat. But the blind application of the rules by stupid and fearful bureaucrats is causing a slowdown in the construction of infrastructure projects, with the undesirable byproduct of big budget surpluses.
It is not only Dr. Yossy Dreizin who is unable to carry out the Government decision to build a number of water desalination plants, most projects are delayed years or never get done. Alex Wishnitzer from the Road Corporation says the bottleneck is the scarcity of engineers. I doubt it, pay better and many engineers who are now selling solar water heaters in Angola or freezers in Kirghizia, will increase the supply in a split second.
Some phenomena I met:
(1) The participation in the bidding process is prohibitively expensive. To participate, a company has to buy the forms, which are sold at thousands of dollars.
(2) The requirements are exhorbitant. The security is about 5% to 10% of the offer, and the bank demands the freezing of the same amount to emit the security, and takes up to 15 - 20% interest on the amount. These warrants are authomatically renewable by the Ministry and the bidder has to pay the interest.
(3) The preparation of a complex proposal is very expensive - nowadays, the Ministries demand preliminary designs by the bidder, which are never paid back but can be used by the Ministry in the same project - without paying for it.
All the above makes for thousands of dollars of expenditure just to be in the competition. Many proposals are thrown out in the initial phase, for forgetting to fill a form or filling it wrongly.
(4) The contracts are standard and make no room for adjustments. In a contract I was managing when in the Ministry, the contractor pleaded that the price of the iron doubled between the proposal and the actual building and he was losing much money. The price rise occurred during the adjudication process, which took a year or so. The sudden rise in the price was caused by excess demand by the Chinese which was not contemplated in the contract. I tried to partly compensate the contractor, but the Ministry's lawyers would not allow it. BTW, Israeli Ministry of Infrastructures employs much more lawyers than engineers, and pays them much better. One more reason why nothing is getting done.
Unexpected worldwide rises in the prices of inputs like asphalt and oil-derived products, in copper and other metals, which have trapped contractors in unworkable contracts. Manpower is scarce - it depends on the permits for importing workers controlled by the macro-economic considerations of the Finance Ministry's twenty-something mandarins.
Contractors building Israel's public water and sewage infrastructure are having a bad time.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
My students are very stressed by the end of semester exam. This year, however, I relaxed my demands of submitting all the exercises, since last year I was unable to read carefully, to discuss and to qualify all of them. This year it was easier for the students. The Technion solves the problem of excessive workload on the teachers by reducing the number of exercises to 2 or 3 per semester, or one group project. They love group projects, and the one I saw was about planning a wastewater treatment plant. The project I saw had many errors, and they have much less students than we have in Ariel.
I am sorry that this semester we did not manage to make field trips to water infrastructure in the Ariel area. This year the University required their permission to make excursions, so I could not organize field trips freely and without insurance and so on. The bureaucracy kills my initiative, but it is my fault, their requirements are reasonable. All in all, it was not a semester that I am happy with. Next year it will be better.
Friday, July 07, 2006
The Robot ranks stocks according to Price/Earnings or Book Value/Market Value or some indicator related to Graham's Value Theory. The Robot buys at the beginning of the year the first ten shares and sells them at year end. Then reviews the market and repeats the cycle.
It is simple and sensible. Graham's concept had been around for 70 years, and it has been demonstrated time after time. Buffett made his 64 billions applying it. The Microsoft internet site has a software that allows to rank shares according to any parameter. So why very intelligent people keeps trying to beat the market picking stocks through professional analysts's advice (which is in my personal experience very bad. Most recently my Bank organized a campaign to make us buy emerging market shares and to use its foreign exchange speculation facility. Those who acted on their advice, lost much money and very fast, and Fishman lost his large fortune on the Turkish lira devaluation.) or their own imperfect knowledge?
If the Robot beats the market, why no one uses it? Because we people are massively irrational and can go on being irrational even when knowing that we are irrational? Because we are herd of savannah animals, and we have never evolved an organ for rational thinking? Maybe rational thinking is bad for savannah survival, so we dont have it? Certainly the animal from which we are descended never played the stock market, so could not develope a instrument to swim safely in that environment.
Ergo, we can survive and succeed in the market only with the help of robot intelligence. The problem is that the robots of my acquaintaince are unintelligent. Another is that computer modelling of the market has been around for a long time but human stock pickers are still managing most portfolios.
And if my own chimp troupe is passionate about analysing and deconstructing stocks, how can I - a chimp more chimp than most - be a robot investor?
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The remaining are a group of Housing & Construction (TASE: HUCN); and the other also lead by Housing & Construction (TASE: HUCN) through its subsidiary TAHAL Consulting Engineers, my ex alma mater. As it is, the winner - no matter which of the two - will face public criticism and legal obstacles for winning by unfair procedures. GE was the only bona fide water company participating, as Siemens (the world's premier water firm) apparently did not wish to be included.
Right now Israel has one desalination plant, in Ashkelon, which also has capacity of 100 million cubic meters a year. A smaller one to produce 30 m3 a year is being built at Palmachim. The original government decision called for over 400 million cubic meter capacity. I doubt it was a wise decision, having been taken in the climax of a long drought and howling public hysteria. But right or wrong, Dr. Dreizin is not the man to carry out the decision.
January 2006 - 2700 shekel
May 2006 - 2200
June 2006 - 2700 again
July 2006 - 2200 again.
There were no actual company events that may even remotely explain these oscillations. Makhteshim sells much fungicide against soya rust, so the good health of Florida's and Brazil's soya crops did harm the price? No. Foreign exchange fluctuations - maybe the Brazilian real is too strong? No, since the strong real may also benefit Makthesim. The security situation in Israel? Makhteshim sells little or nothing in Israel, and is unaffected by the antics of masked Palestinian teenagers.
It must be investor sentiment changing from second to second. The price moves following the emotions of those active in the Makhteshim share market, which are at most hundred persons with Makhteshim sparkling through their neurons. Some hold the share and are thinking of selling it, others have spare money and are wondering if to buy some. The rest of the universe is indifferent and passive.
Those hundred potentially active agents know in fact nothing solid about the stock's future worth and are fluctuating between nightmares about Makhteshim's coming implosion and wet dreams of Makhteshim striking oil.
Since they are extreemely anxious, veritable nervious wrecks, they look around to identify a sign of what is going on. They see the trader in the next seat buying, or is he selling? Portugal is flooded, will it affect the soya in Nova Lisboa? These unstable, hysterical morons are causing me losses on Makhteshim. When they will turn on their manic phase? Somebody should tell them that a mutated super-rust fungus are killing soya, and the the only effective remedy is Makhteshim's funguicide. Which is almost true.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
One thing brings another. Yesterday's natural, organic, bio, etc. shop on Dizengoff St. connected me to a natural, organic, bio, etc. olive oil factory. It is sited in a beautiful pastoral, rural setting, producing ersatz peasant olive oil, uncontaminated by artificiality. The entrepreneur, a retired government officer enjoying early retirement and a big pension (Elokhim My God! He is sooooooo relaxed! He is soooooo much younger than me, living the rest of his life with no need to work nor money problems. Each year of work of these people is counted as three years for retirement. Envy? Moi? Dont be ridiculous! ) rides the worldwide craze for natural products. He let me taste his oil and it is not bad, but certainly not better than the cheap (8 dollar a bottle) brandless oil sold in the supermarket. I for one prefer the supermarket olive oil.
He has oils from different varieties, and perfumed olive oil soaps, all tastefully presented with flowered violet-pink paper packaging. With pride, he showed me the process of extracting the oil and his refrigerated store of 50 gallon steel barrels full of oil. It is all done by stainless steel machines with electric engines, the bottles are filled by an electric pump. I have nothing against modern food processing industrial machinery, in fact, I am strongly for it. But why his oil is natural, organic, bio, pure, etc. (and commands a high price) while the supermarket's oil is not?
Why people loves Nature so much that they are willing to pay more for the idea of a natural product? Nature, so I think, is evil (too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, full of pesky insects, poisonous plants, parasite worms and bats thirsty for human blood). Man's big achievement was to pull himself out of Nature, to create an artificial and secure environment, to eat processed and healthy food.
Nature is evil. Natural is bad for you. But "natural" is good business in Israel 2006.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
A friend phoned me about a small problem: he had opened a new shop and to receive the licence, the Health authorities required a drawing signed by a sanitary engineer showing that no sewage pipes ran over the food area. No, I take no money from friends, I said. Idiot, incurable.
His new health and organic food shop is located on the most elegant boulevard of Tel Aviv, on Dizengoff Street, in a monumental seventy - eighty years old building that used to house Tel Aviv's first theatre. In the early structures of Tel Aviv, the concrete was mixed with salty sea sand, as the enthusiastic pioneers knew nothing of local conditions and less about the building trade. The concrete is now desintegrating, the iron is corroded and blocks of sandy material are falling apart. The original occupants are long forgotten and a succession of shops renewed and repainted the place. My friend's shop sells PC coffee, goat yoghurt, soya pellets, exotic spices, organic fruit, painted primitive earth cookingware, bottles containing what seems to me colored water.
Generations of plumbers worked on the building. Pipes were blinded and new ones installed and again. Aluminium sheet aireation tunnels were tucked inside. The Municipality built new main sewers and forgot to disconnect the old ones. Tel Aviv real estate became valuable, and new underground levels and spaces were added.
From the street level I ascended to the coffee shop level and then descended into the main sales area, which is in a large underground hall. The lighting, the cool air conditioning, the exotic perfume of the spice, the music, the wall-to-wall carpeting, and the fresh slices of sweet organic melon and papaya offered by uniformed blond teenagers and you forget you are in the steaming Tel Aviv of July. I followed the sewage pipes down into the second underground level. Another sales hall not of this Earth, cool and confortable. The third level underground had the emergency doors and service areas, and here the decrepit skeleton of the building started to show itself. The water in the pipes flowed downward, toward the deep sandy heart of Earth.
Through suffocating stairs I continued down to the lowest level of the building. The heat and the lack of fresh air were frightening. I wondered if the H2S level would be toxic. I felt I was fainting. I searched for an air shaft and miracle, found a tiny current of fresh air. The pumping station was in the lowest part of the building. The submergible pump was in good working order. The signature of the plumber Dany Rubinstein witnessed his last visit - 1997.
I calculated that this deep hole was near the outer wall of the building, or under the street's walk way. The vertical riser was connected to a visible manhole on the street. Although I would advise a second standby pump, I can honestly state that there is little hazard of flooding with sewage the food area. I closed the door of this culus mundum, the scrotal point of this sacred theater, 20 - 25 meters under the boulevar. How sweet is sunlight.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
I dont know. What I saw in Sept. '05 is shown above (me & cooperative) and a general view of the very high valleys, which today are quite temperate and fertile. In fact it is a dairy farming area and the main agricultural activity of the Quechwa people I lectured to is irrigated pasture for dairy cattle. As seen in contemporary pictures, there is pretty little ice cap left. In the two illustrations by Humbold and Bonpland we see what they saw some 350 years ago. The volcano is younger, and it has a pointy end, which has eroded and collapsed. The upper conus is completely covered by thick ice, and this cover gets less and less thick at lower altitudes. Earth's climate was also colder during his time, but that is what we are wondering about.
The issue has been ignored totally by popular press, even in the Andean countries. There is no scientific controversy, the glacier caps are melting and retreating real fast. No debate, no controversy, no blood, so the press is uninterested.
An increase in glacier melting initially increases runoff, but the disappearance of glaciers will cause abrupt changes in stream-flow... "This is the irony: the initial runoff increases can last for years or decades. Meanwhile, people living along the banks of these rivers build their livelihoods based on a fundamentally unsustainable water resource. Capacity building on a quick-sand foundation..." Not only that: big towns are being built based on unsustainable water resources.
Last year I worked in Guaranda, Ecuador, on the water supply problem. The pic of the Chimborazo volcano below was taken by me on the Guaranda - Ambato road. In my humble opinion, the glacier cap is miserable and dirty, and certainly so when compared with historical pictures such as the illustration in Alexander von Humboldt and Aime Bonpland´s monumental book Vues des Cordillieres et Monumens des Peuples Indigenes de L'Amerique. Paris, 1810.
From Salon magazine: "April 7, 2006 On a cliffside southeast of Quito, five giant hydroelectric turbines at the Guangopolo plant lay idle. Oversize pastel-colored tangles of steel tubes, built to transform liquid into energy, sit empty -- in recent years there simply hasn't been enough water to pump through them. As a result, production of vital energy that helps light up Ecuador's nearby capital city has waned dramatically.
"In the past 30 years, we've lost 40 to 50 percent of the water that comes through the plant," says Manuel Moreno, one of the engineers at Empresa Electrica Quito, the capital city's electric company.
The dwindling waters at Guangopolo are signs of what could be a stark future not only for hydropower, but for water resources throughout the country. Melting glaciers are threatening Ecuador's electrical grids, agricultural production and drinking-water supplies.
Quito is surrounded by an intricate network of open canals and rivers traversing the surrounding ridges of the Andes Mountains. The Guangopolo plant gets water from two rivers, Rio San Pedro and Rio Pita, which depend on precipitation and the melt of two glaciers, Cotopaxi and Iliniza. The Rio Pita's flow has decreased by 50 percent in the past 20 years. Glaciologists with Ecuador's National Institute on Hydrology and Meteorology attribute the decrease to the loss of a third of the glacier atop Cotopaxi in the past 50 years. They say drought conditions, deforestation and irrigation practices may also play a role, but it is shere nonsense.
Cotopaxi is not the only glacier in rapid retreat. In the past 75 years, temperatures have increased across Ecuador, the increases ranging from 0.5 degrees Celsius on the coast to 1.5 degrees in the Andes. Leading glaciologists predict that many Andean glaciers below 17,000 feet -- stretching as far south as Bolivia -- could disappear in the next few decades. Some Andean glaciers have already disappeared, such as the Cotacachi volcano in northern Ecuador, leaving mountain communities distraught over dried-up water sources.
The problem will soon reach the bigger cities. "In 20 to 30 years we will have a problem with the potable water supply," says Bolivar Caceres, a glaciologist with the hydrology and meteorology institute. As the glaciers recede, he says, there will be less water for Quito, where 70 percent of the water comes from surrounding ice caps. "Once a glacier is lost, it doesn't come back," Caceres adds. "It's a nonrenewable resource."
For the time being, residents of Quito don't notice much disruption in water service. Quito's municipal water company, EMAAP-Q, is pumping hundreds of liters of water per second into one of its treatment plants that runs a constant deficit from Rio Pita. The massive reservoir that stabilizes the system is La Mica glacial lake below Antizana, another ice-capped volcano whose runoff provides drinking water to a third of Quito. But Antizana's runoff will not be able to rescue the rest of the EMAAP-Q's water system for long: The lake's water level goes down 5 meters a year -- and just like Cotopaxi, Antizana's glacier has lost a third of its volume in the past half century.
Ecuadorean officials realize they can't stand by and wait for the large reserves of frozen water to run out. The Quito water company is planning to complete a $700 million project by 2020 to supply the city from the Rios Orientales, a robust river system east of the Andes. In addition to the effects of glacial retreat, Caceres says, changing rain patterns are also threatening energy supplies. The country's 2005 drought was the worst in 40 years, with rains coming three months later than the wet season normally begins. That caused a massive deficit at the Paute hydroelectric plant in southern Ecuador, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the nation's hydroelectric production.
Agriculture is suffering, too. "Before, you used to be able to plant whenever, because it rained continually," Tabango says, as he tends to the shin-high crops in his fields on the Cotacachi mountainside. "Now we [have to] wait for the rain. It rains one day, it rains two days ... we hurry up and plant." As the rainy season becomes more erratic, more Andean farmers have reported lighter precipitation than before -- a stark contrast to the steady, large teardroplike rain that Tabango remembers as a child.
But mountain residents complain most about a phenomenon they call "lancha," which they describe as a light drizzle accompanied by a strong sun. They say the lethal combination of light and heat magnified through moisture on plant leaves literally cooks their crops. Agricultural specialists use "lancha" to describe blights that arise from extreme weather conditions such as frost.
"The sicknesses are worse now," says Tabango, holding up a three-leaved stem speckled with brown spots. "Before we didn't ever fumigate -- it was all natural methods. We didn't know about chemical treatments. We planted, we worked, and we harvested. Now we have to take care of the plants very carefully."
Ecuador's 2005 agricultural losses were bleak for many farmers. Drought conditions, frost and plant sicknesses cut national production by 35 percent. Between export crops that never made it out of the country and spoiled products intended for domestic consumption, an estimated $30 million was lost.
"We see it as a problem of climate change, manifesting itself in a harsher way on the farmer," says Thelmo Hervas Ordoñez, planning director for the Ministry of Agriculture. In December 2005, Ordoñez became treasurer of the newly formed Emergency Committee on Frost and Drought. In order to secure irrigation systems in the face of increasingly unpredictable rain patterns, the committee's primary plan is to tap into underground aquifers by perforating more than 600 wells throughout the country. The committee is also funding an early-warning system for farmers in the Andes who are losing crops to frost.
In two weeks, I shall be in Ecuador and learn more on the problem. Help is on the way.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
We had a nice day of visiting Kyriat Gat area - the INTEL fab wastewater treatment system, the new Regional WWTP, the pumping station and the actual field irrigation with recycled water. The participants - all Latin American water reuse professionals - seem happy.
Acid Mine Wastewater with high toxic metal content is an environmental headache. Any credible company offering to take over the task of pacifying/entertaining environmental authorities can make a lot of money. Left we can see a biorreactor and then, two clarifiers. The technology, based apparently in H2S belching bacteria, is very interesting. How can I make sure that it is not a share promotion but a serious investment idea?