The Institutionalization of Cuban Determination: Hydraulic Resolve

Lydia Peñaranda Ruiz

Last year it became very evident to us that it was necessary to create a Hydraulic Resolve, a concern for water. 

Words from the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, in a ceremony to celebrate the first anniversary of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, Havana, August 10, 1963 

How it Started

Due to the conditions of economic underdevelopment that faced our country after the triumph of the revolution, water, in spite of its undeniable importance to human progress, had, like the rest of our natural wealth, been subject to the rapacious neocolonialist pillaging and exploitation of the Cuban economy. 

As the Cuban people, with its Revolutionary Government and Party, set out to construct a new life, based on the social ownership of all of the principal means of production and the country’s natural wealth, water emerged as a singular factor in the process of economic development driven by socialist planning. 

Like other resources, hydraulic resources became part of the common heritage to be used wisely and expertly to the advantage of the whole society, in order to supply clean water to the entire population, to develop agriculture and industry, and to prevent and mitigate the sudden natural calamities like cyclones and draughts. Also there arose, promoted by our Commander in Chief, compañero Fidel, the determination to develop hydraulic resources, and give water the place it deserves in the social and economic life of Cuba. 

But in order to set the process of Hydraulic Resolve in motion, it was necessary to first establish its organizational base—to institutionalize it. To that end, the Revolutionary Government of the Cuban State, by virtue of the proclamation of Law No. 1049 of August 10, 1962, created the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources. 

Headed by Commander of the Revolution Faustino Pérez Hernández, this first institution had the arduous task of laying the groundwork for hydraulic efforts at the beginning of the revolutionary period by: 

· Designing the first national strategy to put water resources to the task of the country’s economic development and to initiate an ambitious program of hydraulic construction. 

· Taking on the responsibility of aqueducts and drainage, incorporating into its system the Operating Company of Aqueducts and Drainage Systems of the Ministry of Construction, which had its origins in the National Commission of Aqueducts and Drainage Systems (CONACA), established as an “official autonomous corporation” in March of 1959 through Law No. 168 of the Revolutionary Government, to assume the administration, operation and maintenance of the country’s aqueducts and drainage systems. 

The need to take better advantage of available resources engendered new concepts and plans that resulted in the merging of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources with a new entity, Development of the Country’s Agricultural Wealth (DAP) in May of 1969. 

“And the necessity to carry out the tasks that faced us with the limited resources at our disposal, made clear to us the advisability of consolidating resources.” 

“And thus, all of the resources going toward developing agriculture were unified...” 

“We decided to consolidate into one force, to unite into one organization all of the means that had a decisive impact on the development of the country’s agricultural wealth.” 

These words are from a speech by Co. Fidel Castro in a ceremony held in honor of this merger on May 26, 1969 at the Havana Libre Hotel, where he explained with clear vision its economic and social advantages. But he also didn’t neglect to emphasize the work carried out by the institute in the past: 

“Currently, thanks to the Institute Cuba’s water potential is known—there is potentially 22,000,000,000 cubic meters of water potentially available to us.” 

Generally, in a revolution the measures to be taken and adaptations to the each of the circumstances are endless, bodies are created, then others. They merge, and often when this happens no special notice is taken. However, we expressly wish—and we emphasize this very much to Co. Faustino—to have this ceremony in this same place where other ceremonies related to hydraulic undertakings of the country have taken place—because we wish to express acknowledgement, before the entire country and all of the comrades, of the value and importance that we believe lies in the work of the Institute. And we believe that this work has been decisive in the development of the country’s water resources—decisive!” 

This merger with DAP resulted in the creation of The National Hydraulic Group and the Urban Hydraulic Group. The first of these assumed the technical direction of the water development program: 

developing water research and projects.

carrying out systematic research (observations of the water cycle).

supervising the construction carried out by the DAP brigades.

initiating the organization of the exploitation of the hydraulic construction projects. 

The Urban Hydraulic Group was assigned the task of overseeing the activity involving aqueducts and sewage, including:

develop research and projects of aqueduct, sewage and rain drainage systems.

supervise the construction of these systems carried out by the DAP brigades.

execute the operation and maintenance of these systems. 

The advances achieved in agricultural and industrial development and in the quality of life of the Cuban people brought with them an increased demand for water, which required an institution in tune with the challenges that needed to be faced to meet the new demands. At the end of 1976, the DAP was dissolved and its functions passed on to other bodies, leading to the official creation in January of 1977 of the Hydroeconomic Institute assigned to the Ministry of Construction. 

The Hydroeconomic Institute, assumed, at the behest of the State Central Administration, the functions of executing and monitoring the state and governmental policy in relation to planning and control of water resources, as well as the stewardship of the aqueduct and sewage activities executed by local governments. To these ends it: 

Proposes and controls the Water Use Plan

Develops research and projects of hydraulic, aqueduct, and drainage construction.

Executes the systematic research (study of the water cycle) and control of water quality.

Exercises the function of investor of the water works executed by the companies of the Ministry of Construction.

Executes the utilization of water projects. Initiates the organization of Water Complexes.

Carries out the majority of well drilling.

Serves as a central director of the aqueduct and sewage activity administered by the local governments. 

Resolve Recovered 

The period from 1987 to 1989 marked another milestone in the development of water resources in Cuba, as several hydraulic projects were completed and many new ones started. This fact was known as the “Recovery of Hydraulic Resolve.” Co. Fidel Castro, the main promoter of this recovery, in the deliberations of the 7th National Congress of the National Association of Small Farmers stated in his closing speeches, on May 15 and 17, 1987 respectively: 

“With regard to the problem of dams and microdams it is necessary to work constantly and with more tenacity and dynamism to really take advantage of all of the possibilities that the land provides and the application of the techniques to assure production.” 

“We are recovering the Hydraulic Resolve that years ago had been lost, because we had fallen into the bad habit of taking twenty years to build dams. . . Big dams will be built in 2 to 3 years, as was once the case, with irrigation systems; medium-sized and microdams will be constructed. . .” 

A very different situation was reflected in his words of September 30, 1989 at a ceremony to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the revitalization of the Microbrigade Movement: 

“. . .the work to recover the Hydraulic Resolve was set up, and today the country is working simultaneously on 30 dams, a large number of impressive irrigation canals, and a large number of irrigation systems. . .” 

“. . .we can now say that at this time the Hydraulic Resolve has been re-established. . .” 

Committed to Today’s Tasks 

As a logical step to drive and reorganize the hydraulic activity in Cuba and with the goal of perfecting, strengthening, and reordering the directorship of water resources, the year 1989 saw, pursuant to Decree No. 114 of June 6, the creation of a new State Central Administrative Body. This body took the same name as the one founded August 10, 1962: The National Institute of Water Resources (INRH). 

Directed by Jorge Luis Aspiolea Roig since its creation, INRH is in charge of the direction, execution, and monitoring of the application of state and government policy in regard to water resources, with the following functions: 

To organize and direct, in coordination with the appropriate bodies, the protection of territorial waters, basins, natural waterways, water works, and installations from the dangers of contamination, sedimentation, and other forms of degradation and deterioration, as well as the systematic monitoring of water quality. 

To determine with the appropriate bodies the necessary regulations to protect social and economic objectives and the environment from the harmful effects that could befall territorial waters, establishing organizational actions, safeguards and controls that will guarantee the correct functioning of water installations, flood control efforts, underground drainage, and the capacity to transport water from natural and artificial channels.  

To determine and keep up to date the hydraulic potential of the country; to make available to the appropriate bodies the data and character of the water cycle of surface and subterranean water, rain, and evaporation. 

To propose the strategy of water development of the country and, as part of that, to monitor and establish norms for the activity of projects and investments in the water works being carried out.  

To plan and establish norms for and monitor water resources, as well as the operation, technical oversight, and maintenance of hydraulic works and installations. 

To determine and to keep current studies and evaluations of hydroelectric potential, and propose with the participation of appropriate bodies development strategies, as well as establishing norms for and monitoring the projection, investing, operation, and maintenance of hydroelectric works under its responsibility. 

To organize and guarantee the functioning of the national registry of territorial waters in which will be inscribed the concessions, appointments, and permissions regarding the use of territorial waters and its preservation, in accordance with the law. 

The importance of the role of INRH is characterized by the words of co. Carlos Lage, Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Counsel of Ministries, in a summary of the Assembly of the Annual Balance of the Institute in 1998; 

“The INRH is one of the state institutions that carries on its shoulders one of the major necessities of the population.” 

In the period from 2000-2001 INRH began a process of reorganization. It modified the structure, functions, and attributions of its Central Level, and created enterprise groups and enterprises that have applied the new system of direction and business undertakings. In respect to this, co. Aspiolea stated in a recently published brief overview of the hydraulic resources in Cuba, that the INRH, committed to today’s tasks and at the same time the heir of the institutions that proceeded it, has the responsibility to work in two aspects of singular importance: 

On one hand, to rigorously and effectively monitor compliance with the prevailing legal and normative instruments concerning the preservation and rational use of water, introducing whatever measures are necessary to contribute to this end and to assure that the entire society clearly understands the value of water, its role in the socioeconomic development of the country and its current limits and scarcity. 

On the other, to perfect and monitor the economic entities integrated into its system in order to attain maximum levels of efficiency and quality of the services it renders. 

Already in 2002, the INRH celebrates its 40th anniversary with a structure consistent with the policy laid out by the Cuban State to protect the environment and natural resources, and to reach the sustainable economic and social development that the entire nation is working toward, for which today is completely applicable set out in the final considerations of the Report on the State of Our Institute of 2001. 

“The services we render to the economy and the population are our reason to exist and their constant improvement our first obligation.”  

Timeline (Translator’s note: The following is translation of the dated boxes that appear in the article. The layout gives the false impression that they serve as headings for various sections, but they don’t. They’re a chronology of the creation of various governmental entities charged with various aspects of water usage over the years, and should be presented separately to avoid confusion.) 

1962—The National Institute of Water Resources

Provincial Directorates

Hydraulic Equipment Company

Hydraulic Construction Company


1969—The National Hydraulic Group of DAP

Provincial Hydraulic Groups 

1969—The Urban Hydrology Group of DAP

Provincial Urban Hydrology Groups 

1977—The Institute of Hydroeconomy of the Ministry of Construction

Provincial Hyroeconomy Companies 

1989—The National Institute of Water Resources

(Body of the Central Administration of the State) 

1993—On July 1, 1993, Decree No. 138 regarding surface and subterranean territorial waters went into effect. The law’s objective is to develop the fundamental principals established in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba and the Environmental Protection Law. The law in effect before this date was The Water Law of Spain of June 13, 1897, put into effect on the island by the Royal Decree of January 19, 1891. 

Author, Lydia Peñaranda Ruiz, Principal Specialist at the Information Center for Water and Sanitation and the Center for Hydrology and Water Quality 

Translated for Global Exchange by Jared Simpson, November 2003.  


Extra info: 
Article from pages 4-9 of a special issue of the journal Voluntad Hydraulica (Hydraulic Resolve) 2002, official journal of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH).