Saturday, October 28, 2006

The continuing problem

Some consumers are reporting that they are experiencing cuts in their water supply already. However, the main administrative move has been the decision of the water management body, La Mancomunidad de los Canales de Taibilla, to warn town halls that cuts could be necessary and that they should make arrangements soon to be able to introduce them. The Mancomunidad is responsible for supplies for some 2.5 million people in Murcia and Alicante and it has now introduced a drought order in view of the situation in the rivers Segura, Júcar and Tajo.

All the town halls of Murcia region, about half of those in the Alicante area and two in Albacete, have been warned that interruptions in supply may be needed. However, the Spanish cabinet is meeting today to decide whether to approve an emergency transfer of water. Recent rains in Spain, although not in the south east, have led to a small increase in water stocks and the environment minister, Cristina Narbona, says she recognises the seriousness of the situation facing Murcia and Alicante. That is why the emergency move has been proposed.

The government currently sees desalination plants as the solution to the water supply problems of Murcia, Alicante and other coastal areas. A second unit at the desalination plant at San Pedro del Pinatar is being brought on stream this week and will soon be pumping water into the distribution pipes. This unit and the existing unit will each provide 24 hectómetres of pure water each year, which is enough to supply just under half a million people.

The argument that desalination will be the solution hasn't impressed local consumers and politicians at all. Desalination requires large amounts of energy for the plants to work and currently that means energy from oil. There is talk of renewable resources, such as wind power and solar energy, contributing but for the foreseeable future the main fuel is going to be oil-fired electricity. As the price of oil goes up so will the price of desalinated water, critics say. It has even been claimed that the cost of the energy to replace current supplies from transfers with desalinated water would equal the entire existing energy bill of the region of Murcia each year. Environmentalists don't like desalination either, saying that the brine discharged into the sea after treatment harms marine life.

Taken from an article in the Round Town News

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