Spanish opposition calls for end to paralysis of giant desalination project

Opposition politicians in Alicante, Spain have called on the country’s central government to implement the completion of two, long-delayed reverse osmosis desalination plants to avoid urgent problems in the province amid a current drought.

Provincial deputy secretary of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español – PSOE) Herick Campos, said this week that the “paralysis” of the construction of the 240,000 m³/d Torrevieja facility and a 50,000 m³/d plant at Mutxamel was unacceptable. He said the “delay in commissioning of the desalination plants” by the government had left the province facing a particularly difficult time with local agriculture badly hit unless urgent action was taken.

The € 300 million (US$ 438 million) plant at Torrevieja on Spain’s arid south-east coast is Europe’s largest desalination facility. Its output is expected to be split equally between supplying irrigation in Murcia and drinking water to municipalities in Murcia and Alicante. Spanish desalination company Acciona won the construction contract and a 15- year operation and maintenance contracts totalling € 297 million (US$ 435 million).

According to Campos the immediate implementation of the plants would avoid depleting already limited underground reserves or rationing water for other industries, and restrictions on consumption.

Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court annulled an agreement set out in March 2007 that ordered a halt on construction to finish the desalination plant in Torrevieja. The plant was set to be a flagship project, becoming the largest such facility in the whole of Europe, and the second largest in the world, but was fraught with political debate, claims of over budgeting and waste and environmental concerns.