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Reservoirs

Puentes Reservoir

Purpose.

The new Puentes dam created a regulating reservoir for mitigating the effects of droughts and floods that characterize the hydrology of the region.

Photo of the general ground plan of the reservoir
General ground plan of the reservoir

The purpose of the reservoir works for the New Puentes Dam was to achieve the following objectives:

  • Control the overflows of the River Guadalentín in order to maintain an appropriate level of protection, substantially better than the pre-existing one, of the potentially floodable areas downstream.
  • Regulate the resources of the catchment basin intercepted to maintain or improve Lorca irrigation.
  • Establish appropriate organs of evacuation to reduce the silting up of the reservoir.

The Guadalentín, a tributary of the Segura, is a river with a very irregular flow rate that can go from being totally dry to producing immense flooding.

Over the last 130 years, it is necessary to remember, amongst others, the following floods:

  • October 1879 (Santa Teresa Flood): in Lorca, a peak flow of 1,510 m³/s occurred, causing 13 deaths and considerable damages.
  • September 1891 (San Jacinto Flood): greater than the previous one, and thanks to the existence of the Puentes reservoir, located at basin headwaters, the district avoided an unprecedented catastrophe.
  • June 1900 (San Aniceto Flood): greater than that of Santa Teresa, which flooded the district of San Cristobal in Lorca.
  • October 1948: the estimated flow at the bridge of the Murcia-Granada road was more than 800 m³/s.
  • October 1973: according to a report by the Centre for Hydrographical Studies, the maximum flow downstream from Puentes reservoir reached 2,000 m³/s, while El Paretón channel (located in the middle area of the basin) reached about 1,500 m³/s.

Another characteristic of this river is the great amount of solids in suspension carried by its waters, causing problems of silting up, which is reflected in its name in Arabic that means “river of mud”.

Bearing in mind these characteristics of the Guadalentín, there have been many actions undertaken in the past attempting to palliate, as much as possible, the harmful effects of its flooding. Amongst them, it is necessary to mention:

  • The Puentes dams are situated in the confluence of the rivers Vélez and Luchena, headwaters of the basin, and where the maximum intensities of rainfall occur, the former being the main cause of great historical floods, such as that of October 1973. The old dam, located downstream from the new Puentes dam, was built at the end of the last century to deal with the demand for irrigation and it was out of use whilst the new dam was being built.
  • The Puentes dams play an important role in flood protection. In 1973, before the new Puentes dam was built, the old reservoir overflowed its crest, revealing the need to heighten it, or, as was the case, the need to build a new dam on that site in order to create a reservoir with greater capacity.
  • Upstream from Puentes, and on the River Luchena, is Valdeinfierno Reservoir, which, in spite of having been heightened, is currently almost completely silted up and practically without the capacity for regulation.
  • Downstream from Puentes Dam, is El Paretón by-pass channel, designed to take part of the flood-waters from the River Guadalentín directly to the sea. Designed at the beginning of the 20th century with an approximate capacity of about 200 m³/s, it has since been enlarged, and in 1973, after the flood, its capacity was increased to 600 m³/s.
  • Another recent work designed to control the Guadalentín flood-waters is José Bautista Martín Reservoir, built as part of the General Flood Control Plan of the Segura River Basin and which is situated in the municipal district of Librilla.
  • Another essential part of the hydraulic network of the Guadalentín River Basin is the Rambla de Algeciras dam, built on this tributary on the left bank of the Guadalentín, which flows, in its lower part, along the boundary of the municipal districts of Librilla and Alhama de Murcia. With a reservoir capacity of 44.6 million cubic metres, it has a double mission: on the one hand, it is an intermediate storage reservoir of the Tagus-Segura Distribution Canals, and on the other, it was designed as an important flood-control reservoir for the flood-waters of the catchment basin, being built as part of the General Flood Control Plan of the Segura River Basin.
  • Lastly, there is an old artificial channel (built before 1651, at the time of the historical San Calixto Flood), in the lower part, to divert the waters from the Guadalentín and to avoid their flowing through the city of Murcia. It is called El Reguerón. Its maximum capacity is considered to be about 250 m³/s, although at some points it can overflow with lower flows.
  • The overflows of El Reguerón channel affect the vegas of Alcantarilla and Murcia.

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