MADRID Spain's northeast Catalonia region will
need to import water by ship and train from May to ensure
domestic supplies if the current drought persists, the regional
government said in a report.
The report, sent to Reuters on Friday, said rainfall in all
but one of Catalonia's 15 river basins was below emergency
levels for the year so far.
"Forecasts show that if scant additions to reservoirs
continue as they have in the past 11 months, resources need to
be brought in by ship during May to prevent cuts in domestic
supply," the report said.
Plans are for seven boats to come in May to regional
capital Barcelona, at first from nearby port Tarragona, then
from French port Marseille. A further three ships may arrive in
August from a desalination plant in southern Spanish port
The Generalitat, or regional government, estimated that
upgrading port facilities to handle water would cost 35.2
million euros ($55.30 million), and the cost of chartering 10
ships 44 million euros.
Contacts have also been made with state rail company Renfe
to charter trains to carry water, but the Generalitat provided
no timetables or financial details in its plans.
Catalonia is home to 7.2 million people, or 16 percent of
Spain's population, and its capital Barcelona is the country's
Spain needs water to irrigate crops to reduce its
dependence on imported grain, and to drive hydroelectric power
Currently, however, hydroelectric reservoirs are just 57.8
percent full and reservoirs for consumption, including
agriculture, are 41.4 percent full.
Hydroelectric power is an important part of the Spanish
government's policy to phase out nuclear power stations and
focus on renewable energy.
However, due to the drought, hydroelectric power's
contribution to Spain's energy demand has fallen to about five
percent so far this year from 12 percent in a wet year. Wind
power has helped make up the shortfall.
Farmers are concerned that the driest winter in memory
coupled with unusually warm weather may harm the forthcoming
harvest of wheat and barley.
(Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)