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April 13, 2008 / Mridul

We Need To Learn Lessons From Barcelona Drought

With the United Nations warning about possible riots across the world for control over food and water, the situation in the Spanish city of Barcelona represents what we could expect in the very near future. Facing the worst droughts in almost a 100 years, Spain has been forced to import water from France.

The north eastern region of Catalunya has had negligible rainfall in the last 18 months leading to severe shortage of water. Catalunya’s capital, Barcelona, is now finding it difficult to provide water to its people and is struggling to find water for irrigating farms and generating electricity. Water resources are only at 19% of their capacity and the city of seven million people fears that once this figure drops to 15% the water stored in the dams would be useless given the presence of sediments at the bottom of the dam reservoir.

Apart from importing water, Catalunya’s government also has an option to ask the government of neighboring Aragon for diversion of water from the river Erbo. But fearing the environmental consequences of such a project Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has rejected the plan. Back in 2004, Mr. Zapatero had rejected a plan to divert water from Ebro to Valencia.

With meteorologists failing to give any optimistic prediction for the coming months, Barcelona seems to have no other option but to import water from France. The only other glimmer of hope are the two desalination plants which would be ready only by 2009.

Countries across the world need to learn form this situation in Spain and should work to conserve water. Governments must take appropriate steps before its too late. Desalination plants have worked well for many parts of Spain and diversion of water from rivers is also an option (obviously with proper environmental assessment) but one of the cheapest and simple way of conversing water is Rainwater Harvesting.

Just as the Scottish government has provided funds to it house owners and small scale industries for installing solar cells, governments around the world must provide spread awareness about rainwater harvesting and its uses and should provide funds for any infrastructure required.

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One Comment

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  1. Steve / Apr 13 2008 10:10 am

    This situation requires a balanced approach of conservation and other strategies. One such strategy is cloud seeding which, contrary to popular opinion, is not new. It has been practiced operationally for over 50 years, with varying degrees of success…depending on how scientifically it is applied. China, despite the largest budget for weather modification, does not use proven scientific methods and does not publish results in the open literature. Therefore it is dubious whether their system, particularly rocket delivery, works.

    In the U.S., ground seeding is more successful and is even recognized by the American Meteorological Society as producing 10% more water seasonally, if designed and executed well. While 10% is no magic bullet, it can help fill reservoirs along with conservation, desalination, water banking etc.

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