Water uses

Spain's current total water use is about 36km3/year or about one-third of the total water resources (110 km3/year). Use is distributed between irrigation (67%), urban water supply and connected industries (14%) and independent industrial uses and cooling (19%).

Spain has about 43 million inhabitants. This means there is an average usage of almost 3000 m3/person/year, considering the whole country, but in some areas this indicator is in the range of 200 or 300. Table 13.1 shows the range of groundwater volumes used in Spain in recent years. The higher numbers correspond to dry periods in which groundwater use increases. The dramatic increase in the use of groundwater during the last 40 years is illustrated in Fig. 13.3.

This growth in groundwater use has been the result of groundwater development by individuals, small municipalities and industries. It has not been planned by government agencies. As a matter of fact, Spain is a serious case of hydroschizophrenia, i.e. of an almost complete separation of surface and groundwater in the mind of water planners (Llamas, 1985). These water planners have been almost without exception conventional civil engineers working in the Ministry of Public Works (and since 1996, in the Ministry for Environment). The Ministry of Agriculture, independently of the general water resources policy driven by the Ministry of Public Works, promoted the initial use of groundwater for irrigation in Spain in the 1950s. As a result, Spain is among the countries with the highest number of large dams per person: 30 large dams per million inhabitants (Fig. 13.4). The pace of large dam construction in Spain during the last 50 years has been almost 20 large dams per year (Fig. 13.5).

Within the EU, Spain has the lowest percentage (25%) of groundwater use for urban water supply (see Fig. 13.6). The explanation of this anomaly is not the lack of aquifers, but the hydroschizophrenia of the government water planners of the water supply systems to large cities and for grand surface water irrigation schemes.

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