The Government's decision to cut
supposes a transformation of irrigation in the Segura basin.
The intention of
the Ministry of Ecological Transition
to compensate the 110 cubic hectometres that will stop arriving in 2017 with desalination is not considered viable by farmers.
There is no infrastructure to bring that water to all users nor can they pay the price, not even with the subsidies announced by the Government and the
Irrigators currently pay 0.16 euros/m3 and that price includes pumping the transferred water to the farms and the amortization of the infrastructure, which is intended to compensate the riverside municipalities.
Desalination will multiply despite the fact that the Ministry has promised to subsidize it by setting a price of 0.34 euros/m3.
But to this we must add 10% VAT, 15% for driving losses, plus 0.04 euros of toll.
Each community costs 0.47 euros per cubic meter and charges an average of 0.10 more for costs.
"This means that the final price is 0.58 euros, four times more," explains
, president of SCRATS.
According to the professor at the University of Alicante,
, there is no profitability in a medium farm if the water costs more than 0.30 euros.
The president of the Generalitat Valenciana,
, announced last Wednesday that he will give aid of 0.10 euros per cubic meter, in such a way that the irrigators of Alicante would pay an initial cost of 0.24 euros.
have not ruled on whether they will adopt similar measures while they are appealing the Royal Decree that makes the cut official in court.
According to official data collected by this newspaper, the percentage of cultivated area that would benefit from aid from the Generalitat would be 34.2%.
That is to say, 44,535 hectares of the total of 130,276 that are fed totally or partially with waters from the Alto Tajo.
According to the
Segura Hydrographic Confederation
(CHS) in its 2022-2027 planning, "for irrigation these waters present a high cost, so
they are only competitive in specific situations of very serious scarcity
, highly profitable productions, or in case of availability of water from another source and at a lower cost for its mixing", but also issues a warning: "the very high dependence of the cost of production in relation to the price of energy suggests a certain prudence given the eventual possibility of a massive generation of this water as the only source of external resources and advises, strategically, to propose alternative options so that the global supply system has less energy dependence". In a context of increasing energy costs,
desalination consumes 3 kW/hour
and transferring 0.9 kW/hour.
Offline Desalination Plants
Another problem is that not all irrigators can use desalinated water.
The CHS catalogs 13 "seawater desalination facilities", of which only nine generate resources for irrigation.
In 2021, 224 hm3 and the forecast is that in 2027 there will be 281 hm3.
The figure is far from the 400 hm3 that Minister Ribera set as a horizon and that she intends to achieve with the expansion of the plants.
In fact, the Government's forecast is that in this expansion to compensate for the transfer, the Mancomunidad de Canales del Taibilla, the entity that guarantees urban supply, renounces its increase in the percentage of production in favor of agricultural use.
Not all irrigators will reach that water.
There are 61 communities that are fed by the transfer and 20 of them have no possibility of accessing desalinated water and only two, Campo de Cartagena and Pilar de la Horadada, have a direct connection with
, the largest desalination plant in Europe, which generates 80 hm3 per year and that it was built to alleviate the underfunding that the basin had even with the transfer.
Three others, Lorca, Totana and Pulpí, have direct access to the facility in
, which produces 5 hm3 per year.
In the province of Alicante, there are 8,200 hectares and 6,500 irrigators without access to this resource.
Under these conditions, the continuity of many farms is in danger.
"When they calculate costs, the dropouts will come because there is not the slightest profitability," explains Lucas Jiménez.
In the opinion of the experts, only
-industry , the large intensive farms, will be able to survive, "because it is the only one that can pay for access to desalinated water," says Professor Rico.
And that even if the public subsidy is maintained.
The effect of the disappearance of the orchard is also the reduction in the
Co2 'sink effect' of
irrigation in Levante, which absorbs 1.2 million tons of Co2 per year, the equivalent of the emissions of a city of 160,000 population.
Effect on crops
In addition, irrigators are reluctant to use desalinated water.
According to a study by the Polytechnic University of Cartagena on 'Irrigated Agriculture Design and Management', its use affects soil conservation and crop productivity, especially
process generates water with a high
content "which can be toxic to many crops, so it requires post-treatment."
Until now it was done by mixing 50% of the desalination resources with the Tagus water, which requires investment in ponds and pipes.
These conclusions are drawn from data extracted from the study of farms in
, because in Spain none has been carried out on the effect of desalination on crops.
The Government defends desalination as a resource to alleviate the decrease in the flow transferred from the Tagus while ensuring that the infrastructure, although in smaller quantities, will continue to provide water resources.
This is something that the irrigators doubt.
Rules for Exploitation
of the transfer set a flow based on the situation of the headwaters of the Tagus, but it is up to the Ministry to determine each month what quantity of those collected is transferred.
There have been months in which Teresa Ribera has not signed the shipment of water to the Segura basin.
Although the Rules will be reviewed within a year, the authority of the Ministry will remain.
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