April 3, 2012 / 12:15 PM / 7 years ago

Spain drought depletes reservoirs for hydro, farms

* Hydro reserves 10,337 GWh, down 71 GWh
    * Irrigation reservoirs 64.1 pct full

    MADRID, April 3 (Reuters) - The continuation of Spain's
long-running drought further cut the major gas- and
grain-importing country's capacity to generate hydropower and
irrigate crops in the past week, official data showed on
Tuesday.	
    The three months to February were the driest since the Met
office began compiling comparable records in 1947, which has
drained hydropower reservoirs and forced up wholesale power
prices.	
    Low reservoir levels may also put farmers off sowing spring
maize in some regions, and they have said winter-planted wheat
and barley may suffer permanent damage if rain does not fall
soon.	
    The Met Office has forecast rain for the coming weekend,
which would help relieve parched crops, but technicians say it
needs to be sustained for the rest of April and May.	
    Rainfall recorded by the Ministry in the week to April 3
HYDRO-PEN-ES was 14.5 percent of the historical (1930-96)
average at 2.1 millimetres.   	
    Hydropower reservoirs HYDRO-CPCTY-ES have enough water to
produce 10,337 gigawatt-hours of electricity, the Ministry for
Agriculture and the Environment said in a bulletin, which is 71
GWh less than a week ago and 16.9 percent below the average for
the last 10 years.	
    That compares to annual demand for electricity of 254,700
GWh.	
    Scarcity of hydropower makes Spain more dependent on
gas-fired generators and drives up imports by what is typically
the world's eighth-biggest natural gas importer. It is also the
fourth-largest importer of liquefied natural gas.	
    Spain imports nearly all of the 36 billion cubic metres of
gas it burns every year, although demand has recently been weak
due to the economic crisis and competition from coal.        	
    Wholesale power prices influence revenues for power
utilities including Iberdrola, Endesa
 , Gas Natural and Hidrocantabrico
.	
    Reservoirs for consumption, which includes agricultural
usage, stood at 64.1 percent of capacity HYDRO-CONS-ES, down
from 64.3 percent last week but above a 10-year average of 62.6
percent.	
    Irrigation is vital for growing crops such as maize in Spain
and containing grain import needs of at least 10 million tonnes
a year, making the drought-prone country a market that attracts
attention from Argentina to Kazakhstan.	
    Overall reservoir levels for hydropower and consumption are
now below 50 percent in some regions. Rationing will be enforced
if they fall to 20 percent, which last happened in Barcelona in
2008.	
	
 (editing by Jane Baird)
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