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Spanish Water Crisis About to Become a War?

by JohnnyRook Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 12:50:06 AM EST

The news is coming in fast and furious on the Spanish water crisis, which is becoming the central topic of Spanish politics.  When we last looked at the Spanish press 2 days ago, central government First Vice-President María Teresa Fernández de la Vega had declared that there would be no diversion of water from the Ebro or its tributaries, while Catalan Environment Counselor, Francesc Baltasar, announced that the Catalan government, the Generalitat, would move ahead with construction on the assumption that permission would come later.

It didn't take long for Counselor Baltasar to receive another call from Madrid.


The government in Madrid puts its foot down.

Narbona Reiterates to Baltasar that Diversion from the Segre has been Rejected and that she Considers the Subject Closed

The Acting Environment Minister, Cristina Narbona, repeated today in a telephone conversation with the Environment Counselor of the Generalitat, Francesc Baltasar, that the Government has rejected the diversion of water from the Segre River to the Llobregat watershed, and has asked the Catalan Executive Branch to study other alternatives such as purchasing water rights from farmers. In this way, the Minister has put an end to the discussion according to sources from within the Department.

Desalination plant in Canary Islands

The minister also informed the Catalan government that Madrid is willing to cooperate in finding solutions to the problem until two new desalination plants can come on line. She went on to say that the Government recognizes that shipping water to Barcelona by ship from the desalination plant in Almería is insufficient to supply the city's needs.

[Canary Island solar-powered desalination plant--right]

El País, Madrid March 31, 2008

Regionalism trumps party loyalty when it comes to water.

Saura accuses the Government of "Disloyalty" for Opposing the Diversion of Water from the Segre

The President of ICV [Initiative for a Green Catalonia], Joan Saura, labeled as "irresponsible" the statements by Government Vice President, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, and called on the Executive to formalize an alternative proposal to resolve the drought situation if it does not rain before October.
 

Saura, who is also the Generalitat's Counselor of the Interior went on to say that the Catalan government was proposing  "structural solutions such as desalination plants along with measures like water recycling and reducing consumption."

La Vanguardia, Barcelona March 29, 2008


Status of Barcelona Reservoirs

And localism trumps regionalism.

Lleida's Irrigators insist on holding on to "their" Segre River


The Generalitat's plan to divert water from the Segre River to the Llobregat has put Lleida's irrigators on a war footing.  The caveat of "it's only temporary" that the Catalan government keeps repeating has convinced almost no one in a land where the refrain of water diversions sounds regularly with the Segre as its target. The farmers whose lands drink from the river, insist that there isn't enough river to share with anyone, and even less during a drought when extractions from the Segre are minimal.   [graphic from Agencia Catalana del Agua]

The Generalitat has various projects for reforming the canal and moving to a more efficient irrigation system (sprinklers and drip irrigation), but they've been stalled by the elevated cost of the work, around 1 billion [euros]. The sector itself believes that replacing the traditional irrigation methods would save some 400 hectometers per year, more than ten times the amount that the Generalitat expects to divert from the Segre to the Llobregat.

El País, Madrid March 31, 2008

As the drought worsens other areas want to stop the exporting of water from their farms to the metropolis.

Regions deny water to Barcelona

"If they want water let them bring it from Mars" demonstrators against the management of the drought have been chanting for weeks.  Opposition to ceding water to Barcelona has spread like wildfire in the rest of Catalonia:  Lleida rejects diversion from the Segre; Girona has begun to demand that water from the Ter remain in the province;  Tarragona is opposed even to the diversion of water from unused aquifers.

The Catalan Government's plans are very broad: diversion from the Segre, captures from other places in Lleida, transport of water by ship from Marseille, Almería and Tarragona and some other unconfirmed strategies.  The goal is to get to April 2009 when the first of the great projects undertaken in the last 30 years comes on line: the desalination plant in Llobregat south of Barcelona, which will produce 60 [cubic] hectometers annually, equal to two months of consumption.

El País, Madrid March31, 2008

As if it's not bad enough that the central government says NO to your proposals and the provinces are in open rebellion, now along comes the Institute of Catalan Studies to criticize Environment Counselor's Francesc Baltasar's mincing of words about what the Generalitat's is really up to. We certainly could have used Professor Marti i Castell's passion for plain speaking to reign in Bush and Cheney's linguistic subterfuges lies during the last seven years.

The president of the philological section of the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC according to its Spanish initials), Joan Martí i Castell, has given assurances that no other word exists other than diversion to define the taking of water that the Catalan government wants to carry out on the Segre River in order to transfer it to the Llobregat watershed.

In a radio interview Marti i Castell explained:

"What can happen is that politically he doesn't like to use diversion because there is some sort of commitment that makes it better to speak about capture or whatever, but there is no reason why language has to wait on politics," emphasized the philologist from the Catalan Academy of the Language.

La Vanguardia, Barcelona March 28, 2008

Map of Spain

The following is from an editorial in El País.

Barcelona, Thirsting

Barcelona y its metropolitan area comprise 5 million inhabitants in a zone that does not have even one voluminous river. It draws its water from two minor channels: the Ter, principally, and the Llobregat. The reserves of both are now below minimum owing to the conjunction of two factors: a persistent drought (the greatest in the 60 years for which records have been kept) and the lack of foresight of the Catalan governments wherein CiU [conservative Catalan nationalist party], today belligerent about the matter has much to be sorry for. Even if it had chosen to undertake its grand project, the diversion of water from the Rhône, the current drought situation could not have been avoided because in order to complete the project (assuming there were no delays) would still take four more years.  

The goal is to survive until October when there may rain.  "If it rains, perfect.  But a responsible Government cannot base its policies on that happening." The diversion of water from the Segre is not the worst solution but Baltasar with his secretiveness and linguistic gymnastics has created a firestorm.

Today, in Catalonia the consumption of water is very unequal: the primary sector (agriculture and livestock raising) soak up 73% of the resources while their contribution to GNP is barely2%.  Domestic consumption is only 18%.  The rest goes to an industry where the payment of rates (unlike what happens in agriculture) has imposed conservation policies. All of this will have to be rebalanced.  But, immediately, what must be done is to resolve the supply problem until the desalination plants can go on line, three foreseen, with two under construction whose total contribution will be 180 cubic hectometers a year equal to the entire deficit of the metropolitan area.  After the saga of the blackouts and the chaos of the commuter trains, Barcelona's residents deserve at least not to go thirsty.

El País, Madrid March 31,2008

Crossposted at Daily Kos

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Diversion of water from the Rhône? Surely that is an error, the Rhône is nowhere near. Garonne would it be? But it's not exactly huge while in Spain. So I assume they meant the Segre.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 04:52:03 AM EST
The Editorial actually says the Rhône (Ródano)

ELPAÍS.com: Barcelona, sedienta (31/03/2008)

Barcelona y su región metropolitana suman unos cinco millones de habitantes, en una zona en la que no hay ni un solo río caudaloso. En materia de agua, se nutre de dos cauces menores: el Ter, sobre todo, y el Llobregat. Las reservas de ambos se hallan ahora bajo mínimos, dada la conjunción de dos factores: una sequía persistente (la mayor en los 60 años en los que se dispone de registros) y la falta de previsión de los Gobiernos catalanes, donde CiU, hoy beligerante en el asunto, tiene mucho de lo que arrepentirse. Ni siquiera si se hubiera optado por su gran proyecto, el trasvase del Ródano, se habría evitado el actual episodio de sequía, porque para terminar las obras (contando con que no hubiera retrasos) faltarían aún unos cuatro años.
I see the Garonne starts in the Val d'Aran, which has its own specific identity separate from Catalonia. So the Aranese might not be happy having water diverted from their river. But the Garonne must be tiny in the Val d'Aran. Maybe the Catalan Generalitat did have a pipe dream to build a canal through the Rosillon?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:45:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Garonne (Garona) indeed rises in the Val d'Aran -- but there's not much of it at that stage, as you surmise. It soon flows through a gap in the Pyrenees into France, and only becomes a considerable river after receiving several affluents from the northern slopes. Its level is often low in late summer (excessive irrigation...).

There is a project (has been around for a while) to build a canal from the Rhône (much greater volume than the Garonne) to Catalunya. Click on the region in the map.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 06:41:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surprisingly, they do mean the Rhône:
Water Scarce, Barcelona Plans Big Pipe To Tap Rhone | New York Times | 19.07.1999 (note the date).
So Barcelona has developed a daring plan: to build a pipeline through southern France and the Pyrenees to carry water from the Rhone River to Spain. The 200-mile aqueduct could provide water for more than 4.5 million people, who would pay for the project with higher water bills. Although the plan is still far from approved, it is the first time a pipeline of this scale to carry water from one country to another is being seriously considered in Europe.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:47:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been tangentially involved in a project to move 500m³/h 450 metres with a 1-foot-wide pipe and I can only imagine the technical difficulties (and the cost) involved in piping water from Arles (say) to Barcelona.

New York Times: Water Scarce, Barcelona Plans Big Pipe To Tap Rhone

The pipeline to Barcelona would tap about 1 percent of the Rhone's normal volume. The pipe, eight feet in diameter, would start above Montpellier, reach the Camargue delta, run along the French coast and pierce the rocks of the Pyrenees. The cost has been estimated at $1 billion, depending on whether the pipeline will also be used to provide water to French towns along the way, such as Beziers, Carcassonne and Narbonne, which occasionally have water problems. The report estimates that the construction cost can be earned back in 25 years.


It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:52:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bloody madness.

Stop wasting so much water. Stop trying to make a desert green. If you want rain, move to Galicia

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:03:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem with Spain is how successful it's been at using its water for irrigation - now we're reaching the hard limits of the population carrying capacity of the water we have.

Oh, getting rid of all the British, German and Dutch tourists and retirees and their golf courses would help, too.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:06:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Especially the golf-courses.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:08:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you think the government is cracking down on the illegal development along the Mediterranean coast and threatening to bulldoze thousands of homes?

If local authorities only allowed development that they know they have water for, none of this would be happening.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:13:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't sustainable planning a sin or something?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:14:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's an illegal town of 40 thousand people in the outskirts of Madrid.

Palestina a 20 minutos de Sol - Público.es Palestine 20 minutes away from [Madrid's central square] Sol - Público.es
40.000 habitantes ilegales
40 thousand illegal inhabitants.
La Cañada Real Galiana es un camino de tierra de 15 kilómetros de longitud, hay más de 2.000 edificaciones y 40.000 habitantes, 15.000 menores. Muchas casas son chabolas, pero también hay chalets, algunos hasta con piscina. Todas son ilegales, aunque la mayoría paga el Impuesto de Bienes Inmuebles al Ayuntamiento que ha permitido la construcción de estas viviendas durante más de 40 años. Desde hace unos años una de las áreas del poblado se han convertido en un foco de venta de droga de España y el mayor de Madrid. The Galiana Royal Creek is a dirt road 15 kilometres long, there are more than 2,000 buildings and 40 thousand people, 15 thousand of them minors. Many houses are shacks but there are also detached houses, some of them with a swimming pool. They are all illegal, though most of them pay the real estate tax to the local authority which has allowed the construction of these homes over more than 40 years. For the last few years one of the areas of the settlement has become a focal point for drug dealing in Spain, and the largest in Madrid.


It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:23:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It so happens I'm reading the summary of the Attali report on how to get France back on the road to growth blah, and it has the predictable rundown of the wonderful things other European countries have been doing to dynamise etc and that France has of course miserably failed to do.

After saying the UK has undertaken long-term reform of its school and health systems (!) and boosted its financial industry (!!!), it says this about Spain:

L'Espagne a oeuvré pour l'accès de tous à la propriété du logement, dans une économie en quasi plein-emploi.Spain has worked towards access for all to home ownership, in a quasi full-employment economy.

They must have known about the Galiana Royal Creek...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:36:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, come on. They've been allowing this to happen for years. The problem is that the spanish planning laws are a mess.

Most places in the world, if you get official planning permission, you have permission. A local office cannot give permission to build on land it has no control over...period. In Spain, you get official planning permission, except if somebody notices that it conflicts with other central government policies. Then you lose your home without compensation, despite it not being your fault. Which is just a teeny bit unjust.

In fact, some areas, you have a house legally built, then they change the law a couple of decades later and retrospectively want to demolish the house for failing a planning law that hadn't been passed at the time of building.

that's why the spanish property market has crashed. Nothing to do with sub-prime or anything like that. All foreign buyers have got too scared of the mess that is spanish "planning" law and it's killed the demand.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:27:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't need no foreign buyers.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:52:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe  Spain is the only country where planning permission is given by local authorities in violation of applicable planning law in exchange for bribes, but that's what's happened. The problem is not a retroactive change in law but a decision to enforce the law, which was being violated left and right by local governments and property developers.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:55:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I was reading just this weekend about a couple whose house was built in 1970 is under threat of demolition under a law passed in 1995.

Nothing to do with bribery.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 10:51:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Link?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 11:57:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you talking about this?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 12:10:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup

"I don't disagree with the principle of clearing the clutter along the coasts. But our home was built in 1971 - 17 years before this law came in and it is unjust that we are effectively losing it,"


keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 01:23:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a pre-existing Coastal Law from 1968, too.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 01:33:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Veinte mil afectados por la Ley de Costas acusan al Gobierno de manipular las playas - Expansión.com Twenty thousand people affected
Ignorancia
Una de sus fundadores es Carmen del Amo, actual coordinadora de la plataforma. Hace tres años, Carmen compró una vivienda en la costa levantina sin saber que formaba parte del dominio público, es decir, que el Estado ya había decidido expropiarla por haberse construido encima de una duna o una playa. "Me enteré que lo que había comprado no era mío por unos vecinos, porque el Gobierno jamás comunicó una palabra a nadie".
Ignorance
One of the founders [of the National Platform of Victims of the Coastal Law] is Carmen del Amo, current coordinator of the Platform. Three years ago, Carmen bought a home on the Mediterranean Coast without knowing it was int he public domain, that is, the State had already decided to expropriate it for having been built on a dune or beach. "I found out through the neighbours that what I had bought wasn't mine, because the Government never said a word to anyone".
En la misma línea se manifestó, Clifford Carter, que sufrió la expropiación de su casa en el Saler, en Valencia: "Se limitaron a publicar un anuncio en el BOE, un documento que casi nadie consulta, y menos los extranjeros". Clifford Carter expressed himself along the same lines. He suffered the expropriation of his home in Saler, Valencia: "they limited themselves to publish a notice in the Official Journal, a document that almost nobody consults, and least of all foreigners".
La PNALC estima que entre un 15% y un 20% de los afectados por la aplicación de la Ley de Costas son ciudadanos no españoles, en especial jubilados del norte de Europa. "Los ciudadanos foráneos ya no se fían de la seguridad jurídica española y están dejando de invertir en el mercado residencial", sentencia el portavoz de la plataforma. The PNALC estimates that between 15% and 20% of those affected by the application of the Coastal Law are foreign citizens, especially retirees from Northern Europe. "Foreign citizens don't trust Spain's legal security and are stopping to invest in the residential market", said the speaker for the Platform.

Right, so we have people who were swindled when buying property and people who claim nobody reads the Official Journal.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 01:29:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All they need to do is call up California. We know how to move water around.

Might need a few extra nuclear reactors, though.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 02:05:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems everyone wants water from the Ebro. Normally the controversy involves the transfer of water from the Ebro to the rivers of Valencia (Júcar, Segura and Turia) which are used extensively for irrigation. This has normally pitted Aragón against Valencia. Nationally, since Aragón leans left and valencia leans right, the PSOE and PP have taken "natural" positions against and for the transfer.

The interesting thing about the Segre-Llobregat transfer is that it pits the Catalan provinces of Lleida (where the Segre is already used for irrigation through the Canal d'Urgell) and Tarragona (where the Ebro reaches the sea) against the province of Barcelona which is not in the basin of the Ebro river, but around that of the Llobregat.

See the flash graphich here.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 06:09:39 AM EST
I found these two maps:

From WikipediaPosted by Johnny Rook

Using Andorra as a reference you can see indeed the boundary of LLeida closely matches the boundary of the Ebro basin, Barcelona corresponds to the Llobregat Basin and Girona to the Ter and Fluviá basins.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 07:02:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another map, this time taken from the Ebro Hidrographic Confederation (an agency of the Environment Ministry)

One can see where the province boundaries deviate from the watersheds. One can see that the provinces of Álava, La Rioja, Huesca, Zaragoza and Lleida are entirely contained within the Ebro basin, and that the watershed defines the northern boundary of Álava and the Eastern boundary of Lleida.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 04:35:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The President of ICV [Initiative for a Green Catalonia], Joan Saura
Iniciativa per Catalunya - Verts is the merger of two parties and the proper translation would be Initiative for Catalonia - The Greens. I suppose it is analogous to the Nordic Green Left, and it is moderately Catalan nationalist.

I don't know what you mean about "party loyalty": ICV is in a coalition with the Socialist PSC in Catalonia, but Saura is not a PSC cadre opposing a PSOE minister.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 06:14:00 AM EST
Thanks for the translation correction.  I'll use your formulation from now on.

I also take your point on Saura's affiliation. Party loyalty is probably not really an accurate expression. What I was trying to say is that the left in Catalonia finds itself opposing an allied leftist government in Madrid because local concerns trump common ideology.

"My True Religion Is Kindness" -- The Dalai Lama

by JohnnyRook (johnnyrook1@gmail.com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 04:02:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, not originally a coalition with the Greens, they just took advantage of the fact that all other "green" parties in Spain have always been microscopic.

::: Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds ::: Initiative for Catalonia Greens
La 5ª Assemblea, realitzada a Barcelona el novembre de 1998, té principalment dos objectius. L´aprofundiment del procés de convergència amb l´ecologisme polític i la millor visualització del perfil ecosocialista. Amb aquesta intenció IC passa a dir-se Iniciativa per Catalunya-Verds. El segon objectiu és definir la millor posició per fer viable una alternativa d´esquerres. En aquest sentit, es decideix deixar obertes totes les possibilitats a l´hora de decidir la fòrmula més eficaç per aconseguir una majoria d´esquerres. The 5th Assembly, held in Barcelona in November 1998, has mainly two goals. The deepening of the process of convergence with political environmentalism and a better visuallization of the ecosocialist profile. With this intention IC goes on to call itself Initiative for Catalonia-Greend. The second goal is to define the best position to make a left-wing alternative viable. In this sense, it is decided to leave all options open to decide the most efficient way to achieve a left-wing majority.

Then, as ICV define themselves as ecosocialist it would not be surprising that they would clash with their Socialist allies over environmental issues, except that in this case they're proposing a diversion of water to Barcelona despite its environmental impact, because ICV is stronger in the urban areas than in the rural areas.

As you pointed out in your econoticiario #4, the PP is also using this as a wedge issue: the PSC has opposed the transfer of water from Tortosa (in Tarragona) to Valencia, but advocates a transfer from the Segre, which means that the PSC's opposition to the transfer to Valencia has less to do with protecting the Ebro than with keeping the water in Catalonia.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 04:21:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today, in Catalonia the consumption of water is very unequal: the primary sector (agriculture and livestock raising) soak up 73% of the resources while their contribution to GNP is barely2%.  Domestic consumption is only 18%

sounds like you don't have a water shortage, just a seriously screwed up allocation system. Exactly like the US southwest. Tell the farmers the diversion won't cost them one drop of water, just as long as they're willing to outbid the price paid by folks in Barcelona minus the costs of getting the water there.

by MarekNYC on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 02:34:54 PM EST
Isn't that what te Central Government is proposing?

European Tribune - Spanish Water Crisis About to Become a War?

The Acting Environment Minister, Cristina Narbona, repeated today in a telephone conversation with the Environment Counselor of the Generalitat, Francesc Baltasar, that the Government has rejected the diversion of water from the Segre River to the Llobregat watershed, and has asked the Catalan Executive Branch to study other alternatives such as purchasing water rights from farmers.


It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:30:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not quite. There may be legal issues like the US thirties era allocation scheme which require that, but in general I feel that water should be presumptively publicly owned with the government regularly auctioning it off. That's why I talked about the farmers bidding as well. For higher water intensity crops that will clearly be impossible in practice, however I see no more reason to subsidize water for them than I do to subsidize electricity for high energy input industries.
by MarekNYC on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 07:07:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite simply, if you use auctions as your primary principle of water distribution, the poor will die of thirst and the rich will grow almonds in the desert.  

There has to be some sort of public water policy beyond survival of the wealthiest.

"My True Religion Is Kindness" -- The Dalai Lama

by JohnnyRook (johnnyrook1@gmail.com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 08:59:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As this diary indicates, it doesn't exactly work out that way. The shortage isn't due to a lack of water overall at least as far as personal consumption goes, but the fact that a specific business sector is getting it a hell of a lot cheaper than average people wanting to take showers and flush their toilets.  And if it's anything like the US situation, a big part of the problem is growing water intensive crops in relatively low water regions.
by MarekNYC on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 01:55:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think that water should be subsidized so that farmers can grow water intensive crops in the desert, however,not subsidizing water is not the same thing as auctioning it off.  Water is a basic human right and those cannot simply be sold to the highest bidder. There are plenty of countries in the developing world where auctioning water to the highest bidder would mean that it would all go to international corporations while poor people died of thirst.

You can use market mechanisms to allocate water but only if the proper public policies are in place.  Markets are good at setting prices but terrible at determining costs.

Catalonia and the American Southwest have in common that they do not have adequate water resources for the size of their populations.  And as Climaticide continues apace the situation will only worsen.

"My True Religion Is Kindness" -- The Dalai Lama

by JohnnyRook (johnnyrook1@gmail.com) on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 03:20:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that in some places you would be right. However, in the case of both the southwest and here you are wrong - it is precisely because the problem isn't too much population for the water resources available, but rather a system that gives a small group the bulk of the water, that market allocation would mean a drop in the cost of water for your average consumer. But if you prefer to avoid the market that's fine with me, just have the government redistribute the water by fiat as they seem to be proposing.
by MarekNYC on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 11:59:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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