Spain revokes desal clause to retain water transfer

Published October 24th, 2013

The Spanish environment ministry and five regional governments have agreed to extend the life of the controversial Tagus-Segura water transfer, revoking legislation which mandated its replacement by desalination.

Spain’s 2005 national water plan stipulates that, once the demand for water in the Segura basin has been met by new desalination capacity, transfers from the Tagus river, whose resources are over-exploited, should be phased out.

Irrigators in the Segura basin object that desalinated water, which the government proposes to sell at a subsidised €0.36/m3, is three times more expensive than Tagus water.
Desalination plants in the Segura basin are currently operating below 35% of capacity.

Last year, the European Commission warned Spain it could face cuts in EU funding unless it ensured “best use” of the plants, which received generous European financing. It also warned Spanish farmers “that the use of cheap water at the expense of the environment must stop”.