Drinking water supply

Groundwater is a key source of drinking water, particularly in rural areas and on islands. In Spain, for example, medium and small municipalities (of less than 20,000 inhabitants) obtain 70% of their water supply from groundwater sources (MIMAM, 2000). In some coastal areas and islands the dependence on groundwater as a source of drinking water is even higher. Nevertheless, as it was


Fig. 13.6. Percentage of groundwater used for urban supply in several European countries. (From Llamas et al., 2001.)

previously mentioned, Spain is one of the European countries with the lowest proportion of groundwater uses for public urban water supply to large cities. Llamas (1985) explains the historical roots of this situation. There were two main causes. The first was that there was a very centralized government system where all the decisions in relation to water policy were taken by a small and selected group of civil engineers working for the Ministry of Public Works. The second was the failure in the 1850s of a proposal of another selected group of mining engineers who also worked for the government. Between the two social groups there existed a certain professional concurrence. Mining engineers supported the use of groundwater to solve Madrid's serious water problems in the latter half of the 19th century. They failed because neither the geology nor the water well technology at that time allowed sufficient understanding about the functioning and potential development of the nearby aquifers.

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