Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
Severe Drought in Europe Stirs Up Regional Tensions

As recently reported by The International Herald Tribune, a drought that Spanish officials are calling the worst in a century has pushed the coastal city of Barcelona to the brink of a water crisis and re-ignited a tense debate among the country’s rival regions about who should control the precious resource. Water reserves across the country have fallen to less than 50 percent of capacity, a 20 percentage point drop over the level recorded a decade ago, but the situation is especially critical around Barcelona, capital of the northeastern region of Catalonia.

“…Faced with having to ration domestic water supplies during the coming months, the regional government of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital, plans to import drinking water by ship from as far afield as southern France and from desalination plants in southern Spain. Officials said they were even considering buying water from other parts of the country and carrying it to Barcelona by train…”

While the Spanish parliament subsequently approved a 180-million-euro (280-million-dollar) scheme to channel water from the river Ebro, the quest for solutions to Barcelona’s water shortage sparked an angry debate between Catalan officials and the central government.

“…In a country where regional interests often seem to be pitted against national ones, the crisis has revived the question of whether water should be centrally managed and whether Spain’s greener provinces should share water with those that lack it.

Catalonia has long aspired to have greater control over its water. In 2005 the region’s inhabitants passed an autonomy statute that awards the regional government greater powers over its rivers – powers that have yet to be approved by Spain’s constitutional court. The Catalan statute sparked a flurry of claims from other regions to greater autonomy and greater control over local rivers….

…As [one] the university expert on water management said successive governments had become bogged down in politics. “Water is a fundamental problem that should transcend political boundaries,” he said. “Our problem is not that Spain lacks water. It’s that we are suffering a mental drought among our politicians.”

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 at 2:34 pm and is filed under Spain.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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