Spanish groundwater still at risk despite desal rise

Published May 26th, 2011

Spanish farmers used 33% more water from desalination and tertiary treatment plants in 2009 compared to 2008, according to official data released last week.

Figures published by Spain’s statistics institute (INE) reveal that agriculture used an average of 625,000m³/d of water from desalination and wastewater reuse in 2009 – 1.2% of the sector’s total consumption, and a significant rise on the year before.

The switch to non-conventional resources is not taking pressure off Spain’s rivers and aquifers, however. Overall irrigation, which accounts for 75% of Spain’s water consumption on average, increased by almost 4% to 435.8 million m³/d in 2009.

Agriculture accounts for 68% of all water withdrawal in Spain, but despite €2.14 billion of public sector investment in irrigation technology over the last decade, agricultural usage continues to rise, driven by increased cultivation of thirsty crops and inefficient irrigation practices encouraged by access to virtually free water resources.