Water Matters. A Story of Dams, Rivers and Canals

Mendoza would not be what it is today if hundreds of people had not set themselves to think about what they should do with water. A story that makes everyone fall in love with this province.

“Think water” could as well be the title of this article. The truth is that the Province of Mendoza was once a desert. It was the inventiveness of visionary men that led it to become the oasis we know now. Here is how it happened.

Even the first dwellers of these lands knew how important it was to make the most of the water they could obtain. Ever since, it all depended on learning from the past and the new changes to come.
Shortly after the foundation of the City of Mendoza, back in 1566, the use and care of the irrigation canals used to be regulated as functions to be carried out by the Cabildo.

  • Fundamental when it comes to living

    Fundamental when it comes to living

  • Acequias


  • Correct water control

    Correct water control

  • History of dams

    History of dams

  • Streets of Mendoza

    Streets of Mendoza

  • An orderly respect for water

    An orderly respect for water

The position of Alcalde de Aguas (something like a Water Mayor) was created in 1606. This was the first authority in charge of the irrigation and distribution of water. Then, it was the Spaniards who appointed the other authorities in charge of irrigation.

Once Argentinian independence was secured, the Governor of Mendoza, Pedro Molina, passed a regulation for tasks and the creation of the positions of tomero general and teniente general de aguas. This system has improved with the advent of new technologies and knowledge.

Towards 1894, the General Irrigation Department was created. After some modifications, it came to represent the origin of the present General Irrigation Department, which is responsible for all surface irrigation basins and the inspection of groundwater exploitation for irrigation.
At first, the City of Mendoza used to be supplied by small creeks or springs that reached the area. After a while, it became necessary to search for more distant sources and deviate them for this particular purpose. Finally, the population outnumbered the resource and it was mandatory to “think water” with local hydraulic works carried out in modern times.
In 1893, the first water filters were built under the direction of Engineer Cipolletti. Then, they multiplied all throughout the province and its most emblematic cities. In 1906, major works meant to change the feed source started. It can be asserted that during the twentieth century, all government administrations have pursued the so-longed dream of finding the best way to distribute water around the entire province.

At San Rafael and its surroundings, the various circuits that have become tourist (but also hydrographic) attractions today show visitors how water is made the most of. Therefore, a visit to the various iconic sites, such as El Sosneado, El Diamante or El Atuel Circuits is enough to get to understand how the denizens of Mendoza have thought water and transformed life. Nothing more and nothing less.

Autor Pablo Etchevers Fotografo Eduardo Epifanio


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