WIT Press


DESALINATION, A STRATEGIC AND CONTROVERSIAL RESOURCE IN SPAIN

Price

Free (open access)

Paper DOI

10.2495/WS170061

Volume

216

Pages

12

Page Range

61 - 72

Published

2017

Author(s)

ANA ARAHUETES, RUBÉN VILLAR

Abstract

The need to find new sources of water due to the climatic conditions of certain areas of Spain, as well as the increasing urban tourism and agricultural demands, and in addition to the foreseen scenarios as a result of climate change, have led to the use of non-conventional resources, such as desalination. Although the Canary Islands already resorted to desalination plants 40 years ago, it was not until the 1990s that some of these plants began to be introduced to areas of high water deficit within the peninsula of Spain. Nevertheless, their boom occurred in 2005 due to the government’s propulsion of the ‘A.G.U.A.’ program, through which they installed a multitude of plants along the Mediterranean coast, as a result of a change in government and in its water management policy. This source was seen as an almost inexhaustible and suitable alternative in comparison with transfers, because of their regional and political controversies. The water generation capacity of these new plants was calculated based on demand perspectives related to the real estate boom, with demand in volumes that were never reached, due to the bursting of the real estate bubble and the economic crisis. In addition, the high-energy consumption associated with the desalination process (reverse osmosis) substantially increases the price of water, which makes it impossible for some sectors, especially irrigators, to have access to these waters. This communication details all the aspects related to the evolution of desalination in Spain, as well as its current situation, where as a consequence of the above, these plants, which entailed a significant economic investment, are working at very low yields and using their water as a strategic resource, especially during times of drought.

Keywords

arid, cost, desalination, drought, energy use, potable water, resources, Spain, water