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The end of scarcity? Water
desalination as the new cornucopia
for Mediterranean Spain
Hug March (IN3, UOC), David Saurí (U...
Highlights of the paper
We explore the new orientation taken by Spanish water policy since
the beginning of the 21st centu...
Desalination: general overview (1)
• Climate change, population growth, expanding industrial development
• Increasing econ...
Desalination: general overview (2)
• Different types of technology
• 2013: >17,000 desal. plants, 150 countries, 80 millio...
Desalination in Spain: the AGUA program of 2004
• Long trajectory with desalination: Canary Islands (1960s)
• 1980s: expan...
Desalination plants as the compromise
solution to the tension between
increasing demands of water (increase
of the supply)...
7
The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
Desalination plant El Prat de Llob...
“La UE exige que funcionen las costosas desaladoras que financió”
(El País, 18 March 2012)
“Las desaladoras se usan al 16%...
Figure 1. Supply area of the Mancomunidad de los Canales del
Taibilla (MCT). Source: own elaboration.
Case study: Mancomun...
• Critical survey of existing official reports and national and regional
plans (e.g. on the viability of desalination plan...
Figure 2. Water sources of the Mancomunidad de
los Canales del Taibilla, 1989-2012 (in thousands
of cubic meters).
Evoluti...
1. Farmers are reluctant to sign agreements to obtain water from the
desalination plants because of the cost of desalted w...
• Desalination was promoted based on two premises that did not
materialize:
1. Inferior or at least equal costs to other l...
The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
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The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain

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In this presentation the authors (Hug March, David Suarí, David Suarí) explore the shift towards desalination as an alternative to other water supply options such as river regulation or inter-basin water transfers. Desalination has been seen as the cure for everything that dams and inter-basin water transfers
were unable to solve, including droughts, scarcities, social conflicts, environmental impacts, and political rivalries among the different Spanish regions. Desalination also means a new and powerful element in water planning and management that could provide water for the continuous expansion of the urban and tourism growth machine in Mediterranean Spain and thus relax possible water constraints on this growth. However, by 2012 most new desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast remained almost idle. Focusing on the case of the Mancomunidad de los Canales del Taibillla in south-eastern Spain, the authors objective is to develop a critical, integrated and reflexive perspective on the use of desalination as a source of water for urban and regional growth.

Publicada em: Meio ambiente
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The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain

  1. 1. The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain Hug March (IN3, UOC), David Saurí (UAB), Antonio M. Rico-Amorós (U.Alacant) Paper published in Journal of Hydrology (2014), 519, 2642-2651 1 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  2. 2. Highlights of the paper We explore the new orientation taken by Spanish water policy since the beginning of the 21st century: shift towards desalination 2 We develop a critical and reflexive perspective on the use of desalination in Spain Desalination plants were massively implemented by means of the AGUA Program We focus on the Mancomunidad de los Canales del Taibillla in South-eastern Spain High price and the crisis of the building sector explains the low use of desalted water Other alternative water sources and demand-side management should be promoted The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  3. 3. Desalination: general overview (1) • Climate change, population growth, expanding industrial development • Increasing economic costs, impacts of and contestations to traditional water sources (dams, water transfers, etc) “No water resources program is of greater long-range importance –for relief not only of our shortages, but for arid nations the world over –than our efforts to find an effective and economical way to convert water from the world’s greatest, cheapest natural resources –our oceans- into water fit for consumption in the home and by industry” President Kennedy, 1961 • Desalination is portrayed as a solution to 21st water crisis. • “Nothing new under the sun”. It rapidly increased since mid 20th century Global Water Crisis (with uneven impacts and manifestations in G. North/G. South) 3 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  4. 4. Desalination: general overview (2) • Different types of technology • 2013: >17,000 desal. plants, 150 countries, 80 million cubic meters per day, serving partially or totally 300 million people • Geographical uneven development: Arabian Gulf Countries, Spain, USA • Emerging geography of desalination: China, India, Chile, etc. • Issues: environmental impacts, high energy use, distributional issues Thermal Membrane Multiple-effect distillation (MED) Multi-stage flash (MSF) Reverse Osmosis Electrodialysis 4 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  5. 5. Desalination in Spain: the AGUA program of 2004 • Long trajectory with desalination: Canary Islands (1960s) • 1980s: expansion in Balearic and Canary Islands • 1990s: plans for desalination in mainland Spain (not fullfilled) • 2001: National Water Plan (Plan Hidrológico Nacional). • Central project: Ebro transfer. High contestation. • 2004: General elections. Cancellation of the Ebro transfer. • AGUA program: massive development of desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast. 5 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  6. 6. Desalination plants as the compromise solution to the tension between increasing demands of water (increase of the supply) along the Mediterranean coast and the “New Water Culture” of Spanish water authorities. 6 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain Spain: 3rd country by installed desalination capacity
  7. 7. 7 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain Desalination plant El Prat de Llobregat. Source: Hug March
  8. 8. “La UE exige que funcionen las costosas desaladoras que financió” (El País, 18 March 2012) “Las desaladoras se usan al 16% de capacidad tras costar 2.300 millones” (El Economista, February 2013) “Desalination is doubtfully sustainable …..of the 51 desalination plants foreseen in the Programa AGUA only 17 have been built … desalination plants only produce 15 percent of the water needed to compensate for the cancellation of the Ebro transfer…Moreover, at a cost of 1,1 euros per cubic meter, desalted water is totally unaffordable for farmers who cannot pay more than 0,3 euro/ cubic meter.” Miguel Arias Cañete, Minister for Agriculture and the Environment of the Spanish Popular Party (in power since December 2011), Press Conference, 31st January 2012 8 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain But...some years later...
  9. 9. Figure 1. Supply area of the Mancomunidad de los Canales del Taibilla (MCT). Source: own elaboration. Case study: Mancomunidad de los Canales del Tabililla (MCT) • 80 municipalities of Murcia and Alicante •2.4 million people (and 1 million extra in summer) • Incorporation of several surface sources since the 1970s •In 2003 introduction of desalination • 4 desal plants + agreements with AGUA program desal plants to use water 9 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  10. 10. • Critical survey of existing official reports and national and regional plans (e.g. on the viability of desalination plants) • Informal conversations with water planners and managers of the MCT • Examination of evolution of water consumption in MCT contrasted with water demand forecasts Methodology 10 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  11. 11. Figure 2. Water sources of the Mancomunidad de los Canales del Taibilla, 1989-2012 (in thousands of cubic meters). Evolution of water sources in MCT Figure 3. Desalted water used by the MCT in 2011 and 2012. • MCT desal plants only produced 44 of the 96 MCM capacity per year in 2012 • Virtually no water was used from the AGUA program desal plants • Desalination is underused. In some case there are idle desal plants. • Why? 11 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  12. 12. 1. Farmers are reluctant to sign agreements to obtain water from the desalination plants because of the cost of desalted water compared to traditional sources. Traditional sources: 0.20-0.30 euros/m3 Desalted water: up to 0.90-1 euros/m3 2. Economic crisis. Collapse of the building sector. Urban growth scenarios not met. 3. Stabilization of urban water demand Production capacity (2012): around 400 MCM Real water use (2012): 194 MCM The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain
  13. 13. • Desalination was promoted based on two premises that did not materialize: 1. Inferior or at least equal costs to other large-scale alternatives 2. Expanding demand after the boom in the urban and tourist sector in early 2000s • Overcapacity of desalination plants. Wide margin to cope with future scarcity periods thanks to underused or idle desalination plants • Relative scarcities. How will be able to afford this water? (distributional issues) • Desalination as the continuation of 20th century water planning, subordinated to urban and economic growth? Conclusions 13 The end of scarcity? Water desalination as the new cornucopia for Mediterranean Spain

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