Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a very British view of life in a small village in Alicante province, my experience of Spain, of Spaniards and sometimes of the other Britons who live nearby. The tabs beneath the header photo link to other blogs written whilst I was living in other parts of Spain, to my articles written for the now defunct TIM magazine and to my most recent photo albums.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rivers, water and the like

Spain has the highest number of reservoirs per inhabitant in the world. At least that's what it says on Wikipedia. I am always wary of these superlatives. I remember hearing in the UK that NHS Blood and Transplant was the best service in the world and I wondered what their criteria were for that statement. My mum is also the best mum in the world. I bet you, mistakenly, thought yours was.

My unchecked and unverified perception is that it is generally pretty sunny in Spain in summer. It is especially sunny along the Mediterranean coast. I hear it even stops raining in Galicia and the rest of Northern Spain in summer. You might think that a hot dry country like Spain would have water supply problems.

Whilst we have lived here there were, a few years ago, some restrictions on the agricultural use of water. It wasn't a big thing though - we were on the verge of trouble rather than in trouble. The last big problems that I can find reference to were down in Andalucia in the mid 1990s. Given that it is sunny and hot that seems to suggest pretty good organisation of water to me. Maybe that reservoir number information was right. Apparently Franco liked building dams. One of his nicknames was Paco the frog which came from his liking for water. Back in 2001 the Aznar Government came up with a plan that was going to move water from the River Ebro, in the North, through a series of pipes and canals down to the drier, southern, parts of Spain. The Catalans and the Aragonese were not keen on this plan. In 2004 the new Zapatero government shelved the Aznar plans and decided to build desalination plants instead. The Valencians and Murcians were not keen on this plan. The graffiti about the "trasvase," the transfer plan, is still clear on many walls all over this area. The plan also had provision for building another 120 reservoirs.

One of the news items during the periods when it doesn't rain as hard or as often as it should is a bulletin on the state of the "Basin Agencies." These Confederaciones Hidrográficas are generally based on river basins and I think there are fourteen or fifteen in total. The reserves are usually expressed as a percentage of capacity  so, for instance, today in the internal Basque Country the level is 95.24% of capacity and for the Ebro it's 85.84%. Healthy figures. The one that matters to us, the Segura basin,  is at 70%. Last year at the same time the Segura's reservoirs were at 49% and the 10 year average is just 32% so one good wet Spring and we have water to burn. Back in the Spring I heard some chap on the radio being asked about the state of the Segura river. He was almost gleeful about the rain. "I had to open sluices on some reservoirs today," he cackled. "Water enough for three years," he boasted.

The Segura goes through Murcia. It looks like a river there by the Whale sculpture and, when I think about it, where it flows into the Med. at Guardamar it still looks quite river like. Certainly it looks more like a river than the mighty Vinalopó, our most local river and the one which gives geographical names to this region. For most of the the Vinalopó is nothing more than a dirty trickle of water.

Despite being aware of the Segura as a name and even having visited several places along its banks I had never really noticed it as a river until yesterday. That's because yesterday I couldn't fail to notice it. I paddled down it in an inflatable boat for 13kms, watched ducks float by at an impressive velocity and, as I stood in it, I felt the swirl of small pebbles bombarding my legs as they were carried along by the current.

None so blind as those who will not see.

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