The Tagus River water transfer and the future Ebro River water transfer

In 1979, almost 50 years after the first formal proposal, water from the Tagus River was transferred to the Segura catchment through a 300 km long aqueduct. The capacity of this aqueduct is about 33 m3/s or 1000 million cubic metres per year, but the maximum volume approved for transfer during the first phase was only 600 million cubic metres per year. The reality is that the average volume transferred during the first two decades of operation of the aqueduct has been about 300 million cubic metres per year. The theoretical 600 million cubic metres to be transferred was distributed thus: 110 million cubic metres for urban water supply, 400 million cubic metres for irrigation and 90 million cubic metres as estimated losses during transfer. It was also stipulated that when the volume of water transferred is smaller that this theoretical amount, urban water supply had a clear priority. One interesting aspect of this project is that the beneficiaries of the transferred Tagus water pay a tariff for the water that is significantly higher than that usually paid by surface water farmers in Spain (approximately €0.005/m3). In this case, they pay an average of about €0.1/m3, although water for urban supply has a higher tariff than water for irrigation. The Law of the National Water Plan enacted in 2001 approved a new water transfer of 1050 million cubic metres per year from the Ebro River in northern Spain to several regions along the Mediterranean coast. Almost 50% of this volume was for delivery to the Segura catchment area. The planned aqueduct was almost 900 km long. Out of the total volume transferred, about 50% is for urban water supply and the rest for supplying water to areas in which groundwater abstraction has been excessive and has impacted the storage and groundwater quality of the aquifers. The Ebro water transfer met strong opposition among many different groups, parties and area-of-origin regional governments. Demonstrations summoned hundreds of thousands of people Valencia (for) and Zaragoza (against) the transfer. According to the government, the real cost of the Ebro water transfer would be about €0.30/m3, but analysts argued it would be much higher.

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