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

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Big rises in agricultural water prices in Mazarron area

Water from the Virgen del Milagro desalination plant near Mazarron, used by about 1,100 farmers in the area to irrigate the 3,500 hectares authorised by the association of water users, is set to see a sharp rise in price (the background to the development of this plant is detailed here - an English translation is here). Currently water is charged at €0.34/m3, but it will rise to €0.55/m3, an increase of almost 62 per cent. This is a direct result of an even sharper rise in the cost of electricity from €0.0483/Kwh since last June to €0.0912/Kwh. In addition the hours when the plant will be in production will be reduced substantially, particularly the off-peak hours, so that the plant will run for only 7,216 hours per annum, instead of the current 7,740 hours. In July and August this year the plant will continue to operate as at present, using the current annual hourly rate, but from September the association of water users will decide whether to invoke the new system or whether to close the desalination plant if it is decided it is economically unfeasible to continue.

The President of the Mazarron association of water users, Jose Hernandez, will be in touch with the Minister of the Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs, Elena Espino, in coming weeks to try and seek a solution to a situation that threatens to wipe out 'one of the most efficient agricultural regions' and jeopardise up to 20,000 jobs in the area:




"No descartamos movilizaciones si nos encontramos con una situación límite, ya que estamos hablando del pan de nuestros hijos"

- A rough translation:
"Do not rule out demonstrations if we find an extreme situation, since we are talking about the bread of our children."

Undoubtedly there will be a certain amount of rhetoric in what he said, I imagine (and hope), but this development does seem to illustrate the gravity of the water shortage crisis which affects the Murcia region of Spain in particular and that the increasing cost of desalinated water is likely to be a problem for all users, agricultural, industrial and domestic.

Against this depressing scenario is the fact that the Valdelentisco desalination plant is scheduled to come onstream in September; it will be the largest such plant in Europe and the third-largest in the world and is aiming to reduce the cost of production from the current approx. €0.5/m3 by 20 to 30 per cent and the cost of the resulting water by about 15 per cent, by means of a combination of solar, wind and wave power generation; a photograph of a solar plant under construction near Mazarron is currently shown on the mccmurcia.com website homepage, for example.

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