Spanish water conservation law approved

Parliamentary committee passes legislation to improve water resource management

With most of the country experiencing a renewed period of cyclical drought, Spain's parliamentary environment committee on Wednesday used fast-track procedures to approve new legislation designed to improve water conservation.

The reform creates a market in water with the aim of rationalising the use of resources by allowing water rights to be bought and sold, a measure which has brought accusations of "back-door privatisation" from critics. A less controversial innovation included in the legislation establishes water "banks," along lines pioneered in California, which will allow the government to redirect water resources to priority sectors of need.

The law will also make obligatory the metering of water used for irrigation and creates a regulatory framework for new water-conservation schemes such as desalination and the use of "grey water" on parks and golf courses.

Santiago Martin of the environmental NGO Ecologists in Action told ENDS Daily that "while some aspects of the legislation are positive, it leaves water conservation to market forces and does not address the major problem of water loss through leakage, currently running at 60% of agricultural supply and 25% to 50% in the domestic network according to environment ministry figures". The main opposition Socialist Party, voting against the new law, described it as "ill-thought-out and a step in the wrong direction".

As more households and farms in southern Spain become affected by water cuts, environment minister Isabel Tocino has come under increasing criticism for not implementing a much-debated national hydrological plan to provide a long-term solution to the problem of Spain's scarce and unequally-distributed water resources.

Follow Up:
Spanish environment ministry, tel: +34 91 597 6030; Ecologists in Action, tel: +34 91 531 2739.

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