Spanish region pushes for intelligent water use


31.08.2009 @ 17:34 CET

EUOBSERVER/VALENCIA – The Spanish region of Valencia is lobbying for the EU to develop a policy to promote the "intelligent" use of water using the renewable energy model, as world consumption of water will triple in the next ten years.

In the marshes of Albufera, just a few kilometres south of the city of Valencia, it is hard to believe that the region is frequently hit by drought and has a long tradition of dealing with water scarcity. Separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a natural sand barrier, the 27 square kilometre fresh water lake is surrounded by swamps and rice fields. "Paella has to come from somewhere," a guide tells visitors to the national park of Albufera.

One steady source of irrigation for the rice crops is waste water from Valencia, a city of 800,000 inhabitants. A sewage water treatment plant worth €15 million was 80 percent financed by the EU's regional development fund and is expected to last until 2025.

Intelligent irrigation systems and the re-use of rain and waste water are just some examples of what the local university and research centres are developing and implementing in the region.

As global water consumption is expected to grow threefold in the next ten years and energy consumption to double in the same period, the EU needs to be more active in this field, says Juan Manuel Revuelta, Valencia's point-man in Brussels.

"We would like to see that in some years from now, the EU commission creates an initiative called 'intelligent water for Europe' - that means a better management of water and better communication, similar to what it is doing with renewable energy," he told this website on the margins of a summer school called „Water – engagement for our future" organised by the Assembly of European Regions in Valencia on 24-28 August.

Mr Revuelta said he was pleased to see 15 concrete projects sealed between various European regions and aimed at tapping EU funds coming from the event.

"One project is on drafting legislation at regional and national level facilitating ecodesign constructions which enable people to collect rain water for a second use in irrigation or for the toilets," he said.

Malta and Valencia are participating in the project, but some other non-EU members, such as Jordan, also expressed their interest.

Valencia's 700 year old experience with the so-called Water Courts is used in another project for legislative and governance tools aimed at preventing and settling water-related conflicts in Israel and Palestine. The Valencian water tribunal consists of seven elected judges gathering every Thursday in a a public square and settling disputes between farmers. Its verdicts are binding, recognised by the Spanish constitution and cannot be challenged in another court.

Water on the EU agenda

Polish MEP Danuta Hubner, chairwoman of the regional development committee, says water will be a "major priority" of EU regional policy.

"There are regions that will require specific responses, which will be more affected than others by droughts, floods or water scarcity," she said. "That is why, more than ever, the European regional policy 2007-2013 will be ambitious in its environmental initiatives at local and regional level."

Ms Hubner mentioned the Baltic Sea strategy drawn up while she was commissioner for regional affairs, which is aimed at saving the sea from dying if the regions around it coordinate their environmental actions.

Klaus Klipp, secretary general of the Assembly of European Regions, emphasized the need to create regional lobbies to stand up for common European issues, such as water scarcity and droughts. Choosing Spain as the location for this summer school was no accident as the southern country is EU's most threatened member by desertification and drought.