Spain will irrigate land with sea water

Plans to use sea water to irrigate the parched southern parts of Spain have been revealed by the country's Environment Minister, Cristina Narbona.

The hugely controversial plans to re-route the Ebro river down across Spain to its southern provinces that were put in place before the current socialist government was elected last March have now been scrapped (see related story).

Instead, desalination plants will utilise the vast natural resources provided by the Mediterranean Sea to provide irrigation and fresh water to Valencia and Murcia, where nearby rivers and reservoirs have been unable to meet demands. The end product will be priced according to its intended purpose, with farmers paying the least and golf clubs the highest fee.

“Desalination plants use half as much energy and cost half as much as they did ten years ago,” Ms Narbona said. “The future of our fresh water lies within the sea. Re-directing the River Ebro was never a viable option, and our new plan will provide much more water while costing less.”

She added that existing desalination plants were already available along the coast to help cope with the demand for water, and the proposed system would provide much greater water and energy efficiency.

However, not everyone shares her enthusiasm for the project. Councillor Rafael Blasco from Valencia, which is still governed by previous prime minister Jose Maria Aznar’s Partido Popular (PP), stated that the scheme was “nothing more than a smoke screen and a great annoyance to the Valencian community”.

The first waters running under the new scheme, tagged “AGUA”, are expected to start flowing next year, according to Ms Narbona. The Spanish government also stated that it would launch an education campaign to coincide with this, showing Spaniards ways to conserve their water.

Spain, which already has around 700 desalination plants and has been utilising the technology for over 30 years, suffers from water shortages on an annual basis.

By Jane Kettle

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