Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain
in the Autumn for a month or so

'Fair and softly goes far' - Miguel de Cervantes

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Murcia, water and the lack thereof

The New York Times has an article (registration may be required) today on water shortages which focusses in on the situation in Murcia, Spain. In summary the current situation is very difficult and the prognosis is for this to become a great deal worse.

I wrote a couple of months ago about the shortages in one area of Spain, Catalonia, and political inter-party rivalries that seem to influence the way droughts are dealt with when compared to areas such as Murcia. Since then of course, and very fortuitously, Catalonia has had significant rainfall so that the shortages there are, just for the present, no longer quite so extreme. However, predictably, this rainfall has triggered renewed attempts to have construction of a water pipeline delayed or cancelled. Short-term regional rivalries seem quickly to outweigh longer-term national strategies.

In any case, the latest New York Times article (link at top) is timed to coincide with a UN FAO conference beginning in Rome today to discuss worldwide food shortages caused partly by water shortages in major food-growing areas. This is 'partly' because the presence of individuals such as President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in Rome reminds us that there are reasons other than a lack of water which have contributed to food shortages and malnutrition in some countries.

I've written here over the past several months several articles about the corruption allegations which have surfaced of late in various parts of Murcia region in relation to the granting of building permits for housing and leisure projects which inevitably require large amounts of additional water - a number of public officials have been arrested or questionned by the police about their roles in granting such permits and what inducements they have been offered to do this. A journalist, Chema Gil, who exposed one such scam, is quoted in the NYT article:




"The model of Murcia is completely unsustainable. We consume two and a half times more water than the system can recover. So where do you get it? Import it from elsewhere? Dry up the aquifer? With climate change we’re heading into a cul-de-sac. All the water we’re using to water lettuce and golf courses will be needed just to drink."

Where I have my holiday home the promised golf course, promised in the original sales prospectus by the builder that is, has not materialised. For me this is not critical as I am not a golfer, but others feel differently. However, I suspect that whatever problems the builder may have (along with many other similar companies around Spain), the chronic shortage of water (and the apparently endemic misuse of water without the required licences) is way beyond anything he can do. Acres of grass look pretty, but such projects consume a lot of water. I think a lot of people in Spain are going to have to reassess their priorities and that includes foreigners from more northerly countries who want lush vegetation and grassy golf fairways in Spain, too, when there simply isn't the water to sustain them.

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