Thursday, February 9, 2023

Government approves ecological flow to the Tagus and pushes for desalination to reduce transfer losses

The government approved this Tuesday the hydrological plan of 12 river basins that are within the capacity to expand through several autonomous communities. Basin plans, which must be updated from time to time, are road maps that will govern the various uses of water that are given between now and 2027. And the main one – with almost 80% of resource consumption – is irrigated agriculture. The most sensitive of all these plans is the one that affects the Tagus River. For the first time, the Ministry of Ecological Transition has set an ecological flow for this river, as required by five Supreme Court decisions, European regulations and water legislation for 22 years. But setting up that flow – at least something like the water that should circulate – has consequences beyond the basins in Alicante, Murcia and Almería. Because this flow would reduce the amount of water that is transferred from the headwaters of the Tagus to the Mediterranean and used for domestic consumption, but mainly for irrigation of crops.

The government has finally approved the rectification of that flow, despite pressure from affected communities against it and with the support of Castilla-La Mancha. The most important control point is Aranjuez, where a minimum will be established, albeit progressively. It should be 7 cubic meters per second by 2023, rising to 8 cubic meters in 2026 and 8.6 cubic meters in 2027.

By setting a minimum amount of water that the river can carry, this will have consequences as less water will be transferred to the east. Everything will depend on how much rain falls to know how big the reduction will be, but in the context of the climate crisis in which available resources are already diminishing and will be even less in the future, for crops The outlook is not favorable. Almeria, Murcia and Alicante. At least, if your intention is for the transfer to remain a cornerstone of your sector. Government sources estimate that worst-case transfers could be reduced to a range of 70 to 110 cubic hectares per year (the average annual transfer is about 320 cubic hectares). But, to meet this shortfall, the ministry is committed to desalinated water.

The government confirms that investments are currently underway to increase desalination capacity and to regain in 2026 the 110 cubic hectares that would be lost with the determination of ecological flows. But the problem will no longer be quantity, but cost, as farmers in the affected communities say that desalinated water is far more expensive (between three and four times as much) than water that is brought to them from the Tagus via an aqueduct. reaches.

Sources in the Ministry of Ecological Transition say that this desalination plan that they have – which costs about 600 million – also envisages that photovoltaic plants will be added to all facilities that produce water in order to reduce the cost of desalination Because it is energy required which makes the final price more expensive. The Vice President and Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, assured this Tuesday that they also plan to establish a price per cubic hectare to make desalinated water cheaper. Ribera, who spoke at the press conference after the Council of Ministers, recalled that the commitment was not “exorbitant” but “honorable”.

Aware of the political storm arising in Valencia, the Vice President wanted to refer to his party colleague Ximo Puig, President of the Generalitat, and defended the policy of “constant dialogue” with the affected communities. But Ribera stresses that “decisions should not be questioned” in the context of Supreme Court pronouncements on the need to determine ecological flows. “We must anticipate a problematic scenario”, he insisted, referring to a decrease in water availability even in the Tagus due to global warming. The Vice President recalled that since 1980 the water available in the basins of Spain has already decreased by 12%. And the scenarios that arise are “increasingly difficult”. Furthermore, Ribera has pointed out that relocation was already stopped for 11 months due to lack of rain and low reservoir levels in 2017 and 2018 (with regulations approved by the PP), a situation expected to become long-term. .

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final touches

The Council of State gave a favorable report last week on the new hydrological plan approved by the Council of Ministers this Tuesday. In addition, the transfer of the Tagus, however, contains some recommendations on the establishment of ecological flows in the future and the coordination of measures taken in this basin and which may affect other regions such as the East. Ecological Transition sources assure that following these recommendations of the Council of State the texts have been reformed, but only in matters of form and not in matters of substance.

One of the last battles fought by the Mediterranean communities was for the inclusion of a clause that would allow the final determination of the flow to be open and conditional on the preparation of a report on the state of the river in 2025. However, the same sources assure that the final approved text does not consider the “conditional application” of the flow, that is, those who have already begun processing the new plan. The ministry defended that only the Ebro and Tagus basins were missing because they have ecological flows, seeking to improve the poor water quality of the country’s rivers.

less water available

Starting from this 12% decrease in the water available in the Spanish rivers since 1980 and what the models of the development of the climate crisis predict, the Basin Plans set out this Tuesday for the first time to consider a “change in the trend in the use of resources”. approved of. ”, explains the ecological transition through a statement. “In particular, the allocation for various uses is reduced from 28,000 cubic hectares per year, which was indicated in the previous plan to 26,800.” In addition, defends the ministry, “a greater role is given to desalination, in order to diversify the sources of obtaining the resource, so that the supply is guaranteed and the demands and requirements of the environment are balanced.”

Apart from guaranteeing access to water, basin plans also aim to improve the condition of rivers and other bodies of water, which is not good. And one reason for this is the lack of purification of urban water in Spain, which has prompted the country to pay the European Union the largest fine in its history. The approved basin plans have an estimated total budget of 22,844 million euros (of which 46.7% is state funding and the rest from autonomous communities and local bodies). The largest item—6,643.67 million—is for purification and sanitation infrastructure. Among other things, it aims to prevent Spain from being penalized again for community files that are still open for dumping water into rivers without having been adequately purified.

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Nation World News Desk
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