Or false paradigms

In 2001 a poll was held to assess the social perception of the Ebro water transfer. Of those interviewed, 50% were in favour of the transfer, 30% were against it and the remainder had no opinion on the issue. One could conclude that those who were against the Ebro transfer lacked solidarity with the Mediterranean regions because they denied water to thirsty areas, while the Ebro River has a surplus of water, which is 'wasted uselessly' into the Mediterranean Sea. Most people, in every culture or religion think that it is a good action to give fresh water to the thirsty. In Western civilization this is a biblical tenet. But are the people in the Segura catchment region really thirsty? Certainly not. Almost 90% of the water used in this area is for irrigation of high-value crops and not for urban water supply. The irrigation economy in Segura is flourishing and very efficient. Table 13.5 shows the evolution of irrigated lands in the Segura catchment region, which has almost tripled since 1933, when the use of surface water reservoirs and groundwater was minimum.

The second old and current false paradigm is that farmers cannot (and should not) pay the full cost of the infrastructures to bring them water from the Ebro River. Most authors consider that if the full cost of the transfer were passed on to the farmers and urban users through water use fees, they would not support the Ebro water transfer or be willing to pay for it, since there are cheaper and faster solutions to meet their water needs. As discussed earlier, detailed studies undertaken in Andalusia, Spain, have shown clearly that groundwater irrigation is much more efficient than surface water irrigation: it produces about five times more cash per cubic metre used, and three times more jobs per cubic metre. The analysis done for Andalusia (a sample of almost one million hec tares), and the conclusions drawn from it, can be applied to most irrigated areas of Spain (3.5 million hectares). Other studies shown in Table 13.4 support this conclusion.

Llamas and Pérez-Picazo (2001) considered that both paradigms are now obsolete. However, some time will be necessary to change the mentality of the general public. These false paradigms are also frequent in other countries, as it is mentioned in Llamas and Martínez-Santos (2005b). It seems probable that the conflicts between the farmers and the conservation lobbies will increase in the near future. To avoid or mitigate such conflicts a stronger policy of transparency, accountability and general education (without obsolete paradigms) seems important.

Table 13.5. Evolution of irrigated area in the Segura catchment area. (From Llamas and Pérez Picazo, 2001.)


1 933 1 956 1963 1 983 1 993 2000

90,000 104,000 115,000 197,000 235,000 252,000

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