Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barcelona forced to import emergency water

Guardian (UK): The tanker Sichem Defender arrived at the port of Barcelona yesterday carrying something far more precious than its usual cargo of chemicals. Nearly 23m litres of drinking water - enough for 180,000 people for a day - was the first delivery in an unprecedented emergency plan to help this parched corner of Spain ahead of the holiday season.

As the country suffers its worst drought since records began 60 years ago, Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital, has been the worst-hit region. After months without adequate rainfall its reservoirs are down to just over a quarter of normal capacity. A year ago they stood at almost double that. Nationally, reservoirs are around half full with the worst of the summer heat just a few weeks away. If levels drop to 15% of normal supply the water in the reservoirs is no longer deemed fit for drinking and restrictions on tap water would have to be brought in.

The tanker, which arrived in Barcelona from nearby Tarragona, will be followed by its sister ship Contester Defender tomorrow from Marseille. At a cost of €22m (£17.5m), six shiploads are to arrive each month for three months, from Tarragona in southern Catalonia, Marseille and Almeria - one of the driest areas of southern Spain.

As the reservoirs across Spain run dry, a "water war" has broken out, with different regions scrabbling for extra supplies.

….Water experts say Barcelona's problems are not just down to low rainfall. They claim an antiquated, leaky drainage system loses millions of litres of water a day throughout Spain. Within metres of the new €130m headquarters of Agbar, which owns Aguas de Barcelona, the city's water utility, one faulty system was reported to be losing 800,000 litres a day….

View from Palau Nacional in the direction of Placa d'Espanya, in Barcelona. Photo by Baikonur, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

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