Acuinuga. Acuicultura y Nutrición de Galicia


23-05-17 |

Holy Water

Ever since the times of Roman domination, through Muslim Spain to the development of modern irrigation and the arrival of the dictatorship, water management in the Iberian Peninsula has been characterized by the use of a limited resource under conditions of great conflict. While Spain has the highest number of large dams per inhabitant worldwide, boasting 49 wetlands of great importance for European biodiversity inscribed in the Ramsar Convention list, it also has a very high demand for water resources, due to an agricultural sector with almost four million hectares of irrigated land, and a tourist industry with an average daily consumption in excess of 500 L per person for the more than 75 million visitors arriving annually.

This strong demand, unfortunately, ties up to an uncoordinated administration of up to six levels of (miss) management, including more than 8,000 municipalities, councils, boards, insular authorities and watersheds; autonomous, national and European supervisors acting independently, lacking a central regulator with the capacity to guarantee efficient control over the liquid asset. The complete politicization of the National Water Plan resulted in the paralysis of successive improvements proposed by different administrations, which added to the great national specialty, corruption, has strongly impacted on the negative perception that the average taxpayer has of water management.

Multi-million dollar sewage treatment plants that use totally obsolete technology and unsurprisingly malfunction, ruinous desalination plants that never got in operation, rigged tender contests, criminal mafias controlling municipal water services, public water companies leading dark international tax evasion schemes, pollution episodes derived from unacceptable service quality, poorly sized and inoperative infrastructures, uncontrolled spills, black market... the Spanish catalogue of  graft, greed and brown envelopes is something to behold.

In view of the investments made and the return received from the large construction companies involved, wastewater treatment in Vigo, La Coruña or Ferrol would seem technically more challenging than the depuration of Tokyo or New York. In the Galician capital, virtually all of the council government (ex-mayor included) ended up with their bones in jail because of corrupt practices, involving the stellar collaboration of the company subcontracted for water services. Serious suspicions of sleaze and subsidy fraud surround the construction of more than a hundred wastewater treatment plants in the province of Orense, although court cases have been abandoned when the alleged offenses prescribed.

There are many of us thirsty for honesty and clarity; longing for the refreshment of competition, transparency and professionalism overcoming cronyism, clientelism and mediocrity. Many of us dream of the fair management of a resource as precious as necessary. We aspire to quench our thirst for a diligent administration, proactive and efficient and sensible to entrepreneurship; an independent justice that punishes bribery and perversion, a leadership capable of realizing the wealth potential derived from the abundance of the resource in the peninsular northwest. As we ask for a miracle we imagine the taste of such a victory. It will be like drinking holy water.