In search of new water sources in a Spain with water stress

Water plays a fundamental role in our society. It is essential for survival and, furthermore, it is a key element for the Spanish economy. The problem is that it is an increasingly scarce commodity. Spain is, along with Greece, the country with the greatest water stress in Europe and already has 75% of the territory at risk of desertification.

Cepsa has launched its Energy Insight number 15, through which it reflects, based on official data, on what solutions can lead us to overcome the challenge of the risk of scarcity in Spain. Can we desalinate sea water? Recycle the one we already use? How to implement the circular economy for better water management?

Before finding possible solutions, the work shows that, in our country, many of the Key sectors of our economy depend on this resource to carry out a large part of its activity. The agricultural sector uses 67% of the water reserves, according to the consultancy PwC with data from the INE 2018. The industrial sector, 19% and the urban sector, 14%.

We are starting from a good base, according to Energy Insight. The average water consumption in Spain has progressively decreased in recent years, and we have come a long way when implementing new solutions to address water scarcity, according to official INE 2020 data.

There is also political will at national and European level. Ā«From the institutions there is a great commitment to water management. Measures such as the PERTE for Digitalization of the water cycle or the European Green Deal, aimed at making water management more efficient, are examples of this,” the report states.

But the most important thing is that we have a great technological potential. New efficient water management technologies are increasingly widespread: Spain is already the European leader in the production of desalinated water and wastewater reuse, with great growth potential in both fields, as Miteco announced a few days ago.

Cepsa's Energy Insight points out that the implementation of new technologies and digitalization in water management makes it possible to optimize the efficiency of this process, reducing losses and consumption. “The innovation in water management “It must support the reduction of water consumption and make it more efficient, while allowing optimization of the use of available resources,” he points out.

To this end, there are more and more innovative technologies and techniques that increase water availability and contribute to better water management, such as wastewater regeneration or desalination with renewables.

How can reclaimed water and desalination help us?

He regenerated water It is obtained by treating wastewater in a treatment plant. There, through processes that are increasingly more efficient, contaminants, pathogens and other harmful substances (such as toxins or medications) are eliminated in the purification process.

In this way, the water can be reused, even becoming drinkable in the best of cases. There are many uses for reclaimed water: the most interesting are crop irrigation and industrial uses, such as refrigeration.

But what advantages does reclaimed water have? Compared to other alternatives, it entails less costs, less territorial conflict and politics, and less environmental impact. In addition, it promotes the circular economy, giving a second life to water, and reduces the need for fertilizers when used in agricultural production.

Regarding desalination, if renewable energy is used to carry out the process of removing salt and other minerals from water, we can obtain drinking water or water suitable for other uses with clean electricity. He desalinated water It can be used to supply the population in areas where fresh water is scarce, such as the Canary Islands, as well as for irrigation, for industrial use, or even for the restoration of aquatic ecosystems.

Its main advantage is that, as the facilities are powered by renewable energy, its environmental impact and emissions level are very low. Energy costs are also reduced, especially if self-consumption facilities are used. In the future, technology is expected to advance and these solutions become cheapersignificantly reducing the consumption of river water and aquifers.