Dams are some of the hardest things to build. These projects require a balance between the forces to which the dam is subjected, and the strength of the structure itself. This can only be simply explained by someone who is an authority in the matter, such as Eugenio Vallarino.
When Professor Vallarino visited Seville in 2008, we asked him to explain a dam in Andalusia, and to allow us to film and edit the explanation for a lay public. He liked the idea and chose to talk about a dam that is not very well known, the Sancho dam, on a tributary of the Odiel River, in the province of Huelva.
Vallarino chose it, not so much because of the importance of the original project (1962), but because the damn needed an important intervention ten years after its construction: its height had to be increased so that it could hold nearly double the amount of water as the original dam. During the intervention, they realised that the construction was endangered by a foundation problem and needed complex reinforcement.
Both heightening (increasing a dam’s height to increase reservoir capacity) and reinforcement (to ensure a dam’s stability) will be increasingly needed and common in Spain, a country where nearly all possible dams have already been built and the demand for water continues to grow. Eugenio Vallarino mentions the possibility of improving the water supply by heightening and reinforcing existing dams, rather than building new ones.
In the summary of the lesson in engineering, Vallarino considers the water problem in Spain without compromise, in general terms.
Eugenio Vallarino y Cánovas del Castillo (1915-2011), doctor in civil engineering, worked for Saltos de Duero and Energía e Industrias Aragonesasand was the head of hydraulic projects for Auxini (later called Edes e Initec) for more than thirty years.
He taught at the Madrid School of Civil Engineering(Escuela de Caminos de Madrid) from 1949 to 1984, from 1967 as Professor of Hydraulic Works.
In the words of Fernando Sáenz Ridruejo, his Tratado básico de presas (1991) “became a letter of presentation of our technique throughout the Spanish-speaking world. The same can be said of Aprovechamientos hidroeléctricos, two thick volumes the first edition of which was completed in 2000, at the age of 85”.
In 2008, the International Commission on Large Dams, ICOLD, granted him its gold medal, the only one granted to a Spaniard to date.