Ángel Simón, president of Agbar, explained a revealing anecdote this Thursday. Although he grew up in Barcelona, he was baptized in the castle-fortress of Sant Salvador, in Cercs (Berguedà), a municipality that was flooded by water for the construction of the La Baells reservoir, in the Llobregat. As a child he accompanied his father to see the works on the Sau reservoirs. When reviewing his biography, you always look at the water.
However, water management rarely appears on the political agenda in Catalonia. It only emerges when the level of the reservoirs drops dramatically and the administrations are forced to organize possible domestic restrictions. And then comes the rush.
But when it rains and the reservoirs fill up, no one remembers the matter anymore. For this reason, the prayers to the Moreneta seek above all to speed up and repeat this cyclical miracle, to be able to pass the screen as soon as possible, to lose sight of the blessed drought.
But the drought always returns. And when it stops raining, worry and anguish reappear with unusual force, as if everything were a new surprise.
For this reason, the speech by the Chairman of Agbar, Ángel Simón, this Thursday was intended precisely to be an antidote, an exercise in memory to prevent this persistent neglect of water management from being repeated, at a time when the reservoirs are showing a slight recovery but they still don't reach 28% max capacity.
This area of public management should always be on the table, as is energy or employment.
In addition, the situation continues to be "critical", he warned, as 459 municipalities in the Catalan internal basins remain in an exceptional situation in the internal basins, which means cuts in supply in various sectors to save domestic consumption.
Simón affirmed that "foreseeably, we will not have water cuts in the near future in the metropolitan area", but demanded that urgent works worth 105 million foreseen in the water pact be activated.
That is why he urged the Generalitat not to forgetfulness not take over the scene again.
The water problem in the Barcelona region, in any case, has not been solved because it accumulates a structural deficit (of 85 hm3 per year); and for this reason a “plan” is necessary that is a definitive solution, so as not to be condemned to continue praying: a plan so that all these hardships “do not happen again”.
The history of the delays in the hydraulic works gives for a soap opera. Most of the infrastructures that have now been put on the table to deal with water deficits were already in the hydrological planning for 2009-2015 (the Foix desalination plant, the expansion of the Blanes desalination plant or the greater use of water underground of the Besòs...).
All this was left behind in the so-called decade of the investment drought, a time of full reservoirs, marked by the obsession of not increasing the debt of the Agència de l'Agua. The times of austerity prevented investments in the new infrastructures, but the risk assumed has turned out to be excessively dangerous.
It is no longer worth forgetting or delaying why climate change is fierce. Rainfall in summer has decreased in Catalonia by more than 5% per decade in the last 70 years and the rivers carry less water also because a thirsty and unmanaged forest area that retains water has expanded.
Simón again vindicated that great metropolitan plan (estimated at 1,300 million euros) very focused on the idea of regenerating and reusing treated water, which has proven to be a key factor in guaranteeing definitive supply in the future.
It is feasible to take advantage of 100% of the residual waters, he emphasized, since once regenerated they acquire the condition of pre-potable flows (“of better quality than those of the river”) and there is a sanitary guarantee for their use.
Planning the use of water without depending on rainfall has become a priority. If the infrastructures to achieve these alternative flows (desalination and reuse) had not been undertaken, at this time we would be with restrictions in the metropolitan area.
In the 23 municipalities served by this water company, 33% of the supply is guaranteed with desalination and 25% with reused water. “We must invest those 1,300 million euros, even if European funds are not available; there are alternatives for financing,” he said. If not, we will continue condemned to look at the reservoirs, to pray, to wait for the next drought.