In a context of extreme drought and restrictions on agricultural irrigation in many places, it is always good to hear good omens. And that is what Ángel Simón, president of Agbar, did at the conference Water: Challenges and Responses, which he gave as part of a new edition of Foros de Vanguardia at the MGS auditorium in Barcelona. Neither more nor less, Simón assured that he could guarantee that "there will be no water cuts this year in the metropolitan area of Barcelona", although he added that in inland Catalonia the problems could be "serious".
He pointed out these predictions in his initial speech and later developed them after questions from Manel Pérez, assistant to the director of La Vanguardia, and Mònica Usart, RAC1 meteorologist, in a dialogue led by Ramon Rovira. He put the emphasis on advancing in the regeneration of water, which in the Barcelona metropolitan area already accounts for 25%.
Reclaimed water is water that has already been purified to be discharged into the river and to which another treatment is applied to eliminate microorganisms (disinfect it) and thus be able to use it again for irrigation of parks and gardens, street cleaning, industrial use and even for drinking water, if it is properly made drinkable. It is a way of optimizing water resources. Well, Simón affirmed that the objective must be to reach 100% reusable water, "with which we would no longer have to be aware of the sky."
In this section, however, he did not refrain from calling attention to the Generalitat de Catalunya. Because? Because he understands that the works aimed at a better use of water resources could already have begun. Thanks to the Catalan law to combat drought, 105 million euros will be available for this purpose. Simón, however, regretted that although the law was published in the DOGC on May 22, his company has not yet received authorization to start the works. When asked why this scenario occurred, he replied that he had no answer. "The situation depends on the Generalitat de Catalunya because we are talking about internal basins," he added.
At the state level, he recalled the 1,300 million euros linked to European funds that would be allocated to the creation of new infrastructures to better optimize water resources. He expressed his doubts regarding being able to dispose of that capital and opted to raise that money through public-private collaboration: "There is capacity to finance it," he said.
He argued that from the 2008 drought they learned that “more resources” are needed and that is why the El Prat desalination plant was started, from which, he said, 33% of the water is already obtained. They also began to bet - he asserted - on reuse (which already accounts for 25% of the water used), but he regretted that the advances had stopped there. “Nothing else has been done,” she snapped.
In his speech, he took the opportunity to deny that the current situation of the lack of water is due to misuse by citizens or leaks that may occur due to the poor condition of some infrastructure. And in this sense, he wanted to praise the behavior of the citizens of the Barcelona metropolitan area, stressing that they consume less (102 liters per inhabitant per day) than what they are allowed to consume in the current exceptional situation. There are even neighborhoods, he explained, that this figure drops to 70 or 80 liters per inhabitant per day, something that he admitted worried him.
In this sense, he pointed out that it is difficult to reduce consumption by figures that are already low thanks to the good work of the citizens. She said the same in relation to consumption in Catalonia (121 liters per inhabitant per day).
In Spain, he argued, it is somewhat higher and there perhaps there would be room to lower it slightly, although he defended that it was also an adjusted consumption.
With regard to leaks, he stated that the percentage of water lost in the Barcelona metropolitan area amounts to 6% of all that is fed into the network, and recalled that this percentage is slightly higher in Catalonia (10%) and in the rest of the State (12%). He admitted, however, that in small municipalities there are leaks due to the poor state of the infrastructure (he came to refer to a population, without naming it, where the percentage of water lost amounted to 40%) and that, consequently, it was peremptory remedy those deficiencies.
Beyond the good omens, he did not want to ignore the current difficult situation, recalling that up to 459 towns in Catalonia in the internal basins are in exceptional water conditions and that 305 municipalities in the Ebro basin are in an emergency situation.
He did not want to forget the farmers either, assuring that while the cuts, at least in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, are not in sight, they have indeed reached agriculture. That is why he took the opportunity to ask that water "become a central axis of the rulers, like energy" and encouraged them to invest in the modernization of irrigation.
He also had time to review "the complexes of the last eight years" that he has had to live with who is currently mayor and acting president of the Barcelona Metropolitan Authority (AMB), Ada Colau, whom, on the other hand, he did not name .
He explained that his company manages 1,500 town halls around the world and that in most cases they have had "almost no problems". "What we like the most is agreeing on things," she argued. However, he wanted to make it clear that in the case of the Barcelona consistory they had not been able to apply that maxim. He pointed out that they had reached agreements with "22 of the 23 municipalities of the metropolitan area" and that they had filed up to 50 lawsuits, worth 150 million, against the AMB. "The new managers will have a difficult legacy," he predicted.
Javier Godó, count of Godó and editor-in-chief of La Vanguardia, were present at the event led by Simón; Carlos Godó, CEO of Grupo Godó; Ana Godó, director of Libros de Vanguardia and Vanguardia Dossier, and the director of La Vanguardia, Jordi Juan, accompanied by personalities from the economic and business world (Jaume Guardiola, Antoni Llardén, Manel Brufau, Luis Conde, Josep Sánchez Llibre, Josep Antoni Duran and Lleida, Jordi Hereu, Miquel Roca); politician (Salvador Illa, Xavier Trias, José Montilla, Alejandro Fernández, Núria Marín, Xavier Garcia Albiol, Albert Batet); sports (Gerard Esteva, president of UFEC); and union (Pepe Álvarez, from UGT, and Javier Pacheco, from CC.OO.).