Sunday, May 11, 2008

We'll Bottle Your Water And Sell It Back To You

Those who campaign for water to be transferred from the River Ebro to Valencia and Murcia have been very vocal recently in the wake of the proposal to do a temporary transfer of drinking water to Barcelona. We hear heartrending tales of how crops will dry up unless the rest of the country shows a bit of solidarity with the Mediterranean areas. Andrés Martínez, the president of a farmers association in Villena, Alicante, has been particularly active in the pro-transfer campaign. It turns out that his interest in the issue has very little to do with anything you can grow. First of all his association is so strapped for water that they have agreed to sell their rights over water from the local aquifers to Danone, so that they can bottle it and sell it as mineral water! Then it emerges that Martinez himself has another plan to grow houses instead of carrots, he wants to build an urbanisation of 1200 homes and (do I really need to mention this?) a golf course. Thirsty work, I’m sure you’ll agree, I suppose those who buy the houses will need to get their water from Danone.

I’m not trying to suggest with this example that there are no water problems in parts of the Mediterranean region, there always have been. It’s just that the interests behind the campaign to transfer water from other parts of Spain have much more to with an unsustainable model of development that will never be satisfied. Those who have dedicated themselves to agriculture in the region have always been very careful with water usage, treating it as a scarce resource. Those who have more interest in concrete, bricks, and golf show no intention of managing water resources, their solution will always be to demand more from other parts of the country.

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