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Camarillas reservoir


The first studies on the feasibility of a reservoir at this location were begun shortly after the Confederación Sindical Hidrográfica del Segura had been set up in 1926.

Camarillas reservoir picture

The dam was built in two clearly separate phases. The first, from 1932 to 1935, saw the building of the tunnels, the outlets and the spillway, the service buildings and the main section of the dam to an approximate height of 13m above the foundations. After the Spanish Civil War, the studies for the dam were resumed and a series of reports and projects were drawn up before the work was finally resumed in 1953, and completed in 1961.

Since it was founded in March 1926 the Confederación Sindical Hidrográfica del Segura established among its prime objectives a plan to exploit the hydrological resources of the basin. At that time there existed only one reservoir on the Mundo river, the largest tributary of the Segura, that of Talave, whose works had been completed in 1918. Although this reservoir had been designed for flood control purposes, from the beginning it was also used for regulating the flows to be used for irrigation purposes, therefore having extraordinary benefits for its area of influence. But the capacity of the Alive reservoir was clearly insufficient to regulate the whole river, and hence the need for a new reservoir on this river course.

Camarillas reservoir picture

Following the corresponding reconnaissance to determine a potential site for the new reservoir, the location finally selected was the ravine at the entrance to the narrow pass known as Los Almandenes, in the vicinity of the confluence of the Mundo river with the Segura river and immediately downstream from the Vega de Camarillas.

This vega (fertile area) is bordered on the south by a steep limestone mountain, typical of the river, fissured by the extremely narrow Los Almadenes gorge cut out by the river, which runs for nearly one kilometre. The width at the bottom is between four and five metres and the almost sheer walls rise up some 80 metres. Once the location had been chosen, the Preliminary Plan for Los Almadenes Reservoir, Mundo river was drawn up.

The document included the proposal for the construction of a gravity dam of a total height of 44m and with an overfall spillway on its left bank and a drainage capacity of 200 m³/s. The height of the dam was conditioned by the Madrid-Cartagena railway line, for which a diversion would have to be built later.

Once the Preliminary Plan had been passed in January 1930, the Camarillas Reservoir (Almadenes del río Mundo) Project, was drawn up, undersigned by Mr. Donato Paredes Granados in August 1930 and passed in April 1931.

The uses intended for the planned dam included flood abatement, the control of waterflows for irrigation and supply of Hellín and the production of hydroelectric energy.

The reservoir capacity was set at the maximum amount compatible with the Madrid-Cartagena railway line, which was 38.4 million cubic metres, although it would still be necessary to redirect the line and lay down some three kilometres of track in order to avoid the harmful effects of the reservoir on the embankments, some of which were of considerable height.

Camarillas reservoir picture

The works began in 1932. They were carried out in various sections, some by the state and others contracted out. The main wall of the dam, the spillway and additional works of the scour outlets and water inlets were awarded to the company Marcor, S.A. in July 1932.

In October 1934, the engineer Mr. Angel Elul Navarro drew up the Proyecto Reformado del Pantano de Camarillas (Almadenes del río Mundo). The main causes for his doing such were:

  • The difficulties in quarrying the blocks for the concrete masonry intended for the dam.
  • The instability of the land detected when excavating the collector channel for the spillway.
  • need to carry out probings and injections in both the foundations and embankments.

This Reformed Project was passed in December 1934 in an Order which also required the works to be stopped until the issue of the possible enlargement of the reservoir’s capacity was solved; reference was also made to the need to study the importance of the faults detected in the natural downstream boundary. In January 1935 the General-Directorate for Hydraulic Works (D.G.O.H.) gave orders for an immediate study of the Camarillas reservoir enlargement following the Report from the Hydraulic Works Council. The study was required to consider the role of the reservoir in the whole system of works and irrigation of the Segura river, taking into account both technical and financial issues.

The works remained at an almost complete standstill until the beginning of the Civil War.

In February 1941, the engineer Mr. Joaquín Blasco Roig began the surveying of the works already carried out and researched the background of these in order to have information abut the controversial problem of the Camarillas reservoir and to find a definitive solution.

The same engineer undersigned the Proyecto de terminación del Pantano de Camarillas (Final Project), in December 1943, and this was passed in May 1945 with the proviso that it respected the observations of the Hydraulic Works Council.

Specifically, it was proposed that the construction of the dam be completed in stages, taking into account the following precautions:

  • To excavate the dike as far as the contour CP=336.50 and, after confirmation of the impermeability of the reservoir basin, to build the railway diversion.
  • To observe the behaviour of the left slope where the spillway was located. Until a decision was made regarding this point, the existing discharge tunnel would be used as a spillway, which would mean not using the upper 4.72 m of the reservoir.
  • Once the stability of the slope had been confirmed, the spillway basin would be constructed. Otherwise, the tunnel built would be used. An automatic sluice gate would be incorporated at the entrance, thus allowing the whole reservoir to be used.

Alongside the Final Project there were two annexed projects for the spillway and the railway diversion. In 1947 the D.G.O.H. ordered an additional project to be drafted, which was undersigned in April 1947 by the engineer Mr. Emiliano Sáizar Irarzábal, and which was entitled “Project for the dam, water inlets and spillway to complement the final project for the Camarillas reservoir”.

The project included a hydrological study which, when fixing the spillway capacity, allowed for a simultaneous maximum peak flow in the Talavera outlet of 278 m³/s with another of 150 m³/s for the Rambla de Minateda, thus giving a maximum flow of 428 m³/s.

The proposed solution, which was considered the most economical, consisted of entirely accepting the layout of the dam, bottom galleries and water inlets as they appeared in the Final Project of 1943 with the sole modification of the spillway designed in the last project.

Camarillas reservoir picture

Finally, in May 1953 the works were awarded to the company Construcciones Civiles, S.A., and thus work was resumed almost twenty years later. In September 1954 the railway diversion construction was appended to the Works Contract.

In August 1956 the “Reformed Project for the modification of the dam, water inlets and spillway to complement the Final Project for the Camarillas Reservoir in the municipal district of Hellín (Albacete)” was drawn up by the civil engineer Mr. Emiliano Sáizar Irarzábal, and which was approved in December 1956.

Due to the insufficiency of the left bank spillway, the abovemented document included a project for another spillway on the right bank with a capacity of 200 m³/s.

The characteristics of the two spillways were more or less in accordance with what was finally constructed.

In May 1958 the civil engineer Don Emiliano Sáizar Irarzábal undersigned the “Second Reformed Project for the modification of the dam, water inlets and spillway to complement the Final Project for the Camarillas Reservoir in the municipal district of Hellín (Albacete)”, which was passed in August 1958.

This second reform included the modifications that would affect the injections and the redirecting of the railway. Finally, in June 1959 the same engineer drew up the “Third Reformed Project” which included increases for several items, of which the most important would be that affecting the injections to the side walls.

With no further major incidents, the works were concluded in May 1961. The Settlement Project was drawn up in November 1964 by the civil engineer Mr. Justo Llácer Barrachina.

Camarillas reservoir drawing

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