Water: knowledge, consensus and courage

The water situation in Catalonia requires urgent attention.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
20 November 2023 Monday 09:23
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Water: knowledge, consensus and courage

The water situation in Catalonia requires urgent attention. In the third year of drought and well into autumn, we find ourselves at the historic minimum level of the reservoir system that supplies the metropolitan region. Our generation has not experienced a drought of such intensity and breadth.

However, we are not facing a new situation nor has it appeared suddenly. This situation is repeated and will most likely intensify due to global warming. Therefore there is no excuse for not being prepared to face it.

Since the 2008 drought we have two key infrastructures that have delayed the effects of the lack of rain: the El Prat desalination plant and the Baix Llobregat water regenerator. They currently provide 33% and 25% respectively of the water consumed by the metropolitan area. In this way, today, only a part of citizens have suffered supply restrictions (mostly the agricultural sector). The weather forecasts offer no cause for optimism, and further restrictions are imminent, affecting domestic, industrial and environmental provisions.

The restrictions have been delayed for a few months thanks to the aforementioned infrastructures. But since its completion more than a decade ago, and framed by non-negligible financial difficulties, there have been no new actions that have increased either the water resources or the resilience of the system. Therefore, even though solutions exist and many of them are planned, their lack of execution leads us to a water crisis worse than that of 2008.

In May of this year, the Parliament approved the law on extraordinary and urgent measures to address the drought. This law identified a series of urgent actions, many of which have not yet begun and which we encourage to accelerate.

The group of professionals that we represent, which has a deep knowledge of the technical, economic and environmental aspects of water, expresses its desire to contribute to solving this situation and at the same time its concern about the lack of more decisive and agile action on the part of of the organizations that have to authorize and execute the mandate of the Parliament.

The only positive conclusion we can hope for is that all actors involved realize that it is time for long-range solutions, such as reuse and desalination, solutions that offer resources regardless of the weather. The modernization of irrigation, which has a long way to increase its efficiency, essential to guarantee a certain food sufficiency. The interconnection of networks, which increases the resilience of interconnected systems. As well as numerous smaller actions, but critical for population centers in inland Catalonia.

Infrastructure, increased efficiencies and system resilience are key pieces that will allow us to offer citizens and productive sectors water security that is essential for social, economic and environmental development. What is the alternative to not having water? There is no. There is also no alternative to facing debates and political decisions on water management that require knowledge, consensus and courage.

Pere Calvet dean of the College of Civil, Canal and Port Engineers.

Narcís Armengol dean of the Official College of Industrial Engineers of Catalonia.

Carles Puig de Travy dean of the College of Economists of Catalonia.

Conxita Villar Mir dean of the College of Agricultural Engineers of Catalonia.