El Nino to reach Colombia in November -environment minister
BOGOTA, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The drought-causing El Nino weather phenomenon will return to Colombia in November, the country's environment minister said on Tuesday, warning that agriculture, energy production and water provision could be affected by the predicted lack of rain.
El Nino, a warming of ocean surface temperatures associated with crop damage, fires and flash floods, has damaged coffee and banana crops in Colombia in recent years and also contributed to a spike in food prices that stoked inflation figures.
The Andean country, which generates 75 percent of its electricity via hydroelectric dams, was nearly forced to ration energy during the most recent El Nino, which lasted from the second half of 2015 through April 2016.
The phenomenon is expected to extend into the first quarter of 2019, Environment Minister Ricardo Lozano told journalists, and grow worse then.
"There will be a precipitation reduction, there will be drought," Lozano said. "That will directly affect those that supply water: aqueducts, the energy sector, in the health sector, irrigation areas."
Colombia's electricity generation is guaranteed despite the phenomenon, Angela Montoya, the head of the country's electric energy generators association said.
Reservoirs that supply hydroelectric dams will be at 70 percent capacity in November, Montoya said, and will work in tandem with thermal coal power stations.
Colombia currently has the capacity to generate some 17,500 megawatts, though it consumes only 13,000 MW. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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