Water levels are so low in the reservoir at the 10.3-GW Simon Bolivar hydroelectric project in Venezuela, the nation's government says it will turn off electricity nationwide for four hours each day, formalizing the blackouts that people have already been experiencing during a worsening energy crisis.
Electricity Minister Luis Motta said Thursday the rationing will start next week.
The rolling blackouts would last for 40 days or until water levels stabilize at the the 1,500-square-mile Guri Reservoir, he said.
Flow from the reservoir, one of the largest in the world, to the facility’s powerhouse produces about 65% of Venezuela’s electricity.
The civil structure was built in the 1960s at a cost of US$850 million. The Caroni River feeds the Guri Reservoir and its water level is controlled by state-owned CVG Electrification del Caroni C.A. The reservoir’s maximum depth is 492 ft and its water volume is 109,446,281 acre-ft.
The facility’s current water level is not immediately available.
The daily power cut is just the latest in a long list of energy-saving measures announced in recent weeks. President Nicolas Maduro has also given public workers Fridays off, declared new national holidays and said he will shift the country's time zone to help to ease the crisis.
Maduro blames the crisis on the drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon and acts of sabotage by its opponents. However, according to reports from the Associated Press, “Experts say a lack of investment in infrastructure is more to blame.”
The country has seen scattered areas of rain in recent days, but the precipitation did not signal an end of the dry season.