Spain unveils more drought relief measures|
By Martin Roberts
Fri Mar 28, 2008 12:45pm EDT
MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's government on Friday unveiled new measures to
relieve the impact of the driest winter in memory, including diverting water
between regions to ensure supplies to 2.5 million people in the parched
In addition to human consumption, Spain depends on water to irrigate crops
and cut its heavy dependence on imported grain, as well as to boost
hydroelectric output amid an official drive to promote renewable energy.
A statement issued after a weekly cabinet meeting said the Mediterranean
coast as a whole had suffered the driest autumn and winter on record, but the
government said the population was not at risk.
"Citizens can rest easy that water supplies will be firmly ensured," Deputy
Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told journalists after the
The cabinet agreed to allow 39 cubic hectometers to be diverted from the
Tagus river basin in the north and west of Spain to the basin of the Segura,
which flows into the Mediterranean on the southeast coast.
The Tagus flows through one of Spain's leading grain-producing regions,
Castilla-Leon, while the Segura supplies Murcia, known as "the garden of Spain"
for its horticulture.
It was the second time this year that the cabinet had taken steps to
alleviate the drought. In February the government decided to choke outflow from
dams and switch water between regions.
In some regions of Spain, restrictions on water use have been in force for
the past four years.
Spain depends on hefty grain imports, even a bumper harvest last year, mainly
to make animal feed, but also bread and other foods like breakfast cereal.
Farmers planted six percent more land to barley and wheat this winter, due to
new European Union regulations, but are not hopeful for the harvest due to the
Some have said they may plant less maize this spring. Maize needs irrigating
to grow in Spain and reservoirs for consumption, including agricultural use are
just 44.1 percent full, down from 51.5 percent a year ago.
The cabinet said that to irrigate crops in Murcia, "it is necessary to wait
for whatever rain may fall in the spring before attending to other needs," as
its priority was human consumption.
The drought has also undermined hydroelectric output, as reservoirs set aside
for Spain's power stations are down to 54.5 percent of capacity from 77.1
percent this time last year.
As a share of Spain's total electricity demand, hydroelectric turbines
provided 5.1 percent in the first two months of 2008, down from an average of 12
percent in a wet year.
(Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by James Jukwey)
Original article: Reuters
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