Spain’s drought solution has been sabotaged for decades

by Lorraine Williamson
drought solution invention

MADRID – Unlimited and almost free fresh water for consumption and irrigation. That sounds like an impossible fantasy solution in these times of drought. Yet there is a patented desalination system that makes this possible. Then why isn’t it in operation anywhere? 

The famous Spanish writer Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa created his invention 28 years ago. His drought solution system allows the desalination of seawater while generating energy at the same time. It is the only desalination system that does not consume energy. It produces it instead. Therefore, it makes it possible to obtain unlimited drinking water at virtually no cost. 

Savings of €15 billion on an annual basis 

Figueroa, in a video published on Youtube by Hope posted three years ago and still current today, tells that four of the most important professors of the technical university in Madrid examined his system and concluded that Spain could save €15 billion annually and irrigate the entire country with his invention. 

Both the chief desalination engineer of the ACS company and the director of Acuamed told the writer that they knew his system perfectly, but that they were not allowed to use it. 

Finally green light for solution to drought from government 

In the late 1990s, the government of Spain decided to develop the system, which required extensive research first. Following 9 years of research and development and an investment of €6 million, the viability of the desalination system was certified. Finally, in 2006, the process started to build the first desalination plant in Almería. 

Installation could electrocute seagulls 

However, a few months later on June 16, 2006, just as the major desalination plant was due to start up, then-Minister Cristina Narbona issued an order in state bulletin BOE that the Vázquez desalination plant could not be installed because they could electrocute seagulls. “While there was not a single electricity cable”. Figueroa continues: “Now Narbona is, strangely enough, honorary secretary of the current ruling party PSOE”. 

“Speculation with water yields a lot of money” 

Regarding this, Figueroa already said in 2007 in the newspaper El Mundo: “at the last minute the environment minister came under great pressure and the project was stopped. Cristina Narbona has done nothing to solve the water problem in Spain. Nothing! There is a lot of talk about real estate speculation, but speculating with water makes much more money.” 

Still insufficient desalination plants 

Narbona then ordered the construction of 24 desalination plants for billions of euros. “Until now those have not functioned or are functioning at 1 or 5%, they are a ruin,” Figueroa said. An enormous amount of money ended up with large construction and installation companies such as OHL or ACS. 

Subsequently, the EU continues to demand that the expensive – financed with European money – desalination plants in Spain be put into operation. Meanwhile, Narbona’s husband, Josep Borrel, was appointed as director of Abengoa sometime later with a salary of €300,000 a year. Abengoa is one of the companies that has made a lot of money from the desalination plant contracts based on European money. 

Judicial investigation into the public water company 

Some years later, the public company Acuamed was judicially intervened following the revelation of a huge corruption scandal involving the sale of concessions for desalination plants in exchange for favours. “And they sell the water 10,000 times more expensive than it needs to be,” Figueroa concludes. 

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Figueroa’s system 

His system, explained very simply, consists of pumping water at night to the top of a 400 to the 600-metre-high mountain that is close to the sea. Wind energy is used for this. The night is the time when national electricity consumption is very low. Much of the electricity is then lost due to the difficulty of storing it. The next day, when there is electricity demand again, the seawater is lowered through a 400-metre-high pipe, so that electricity is generated. Fresh water is produced using the pressure of the water column by placing a reverse osmosis membrane. At virtually no cost. 

Figueroa explains that the worldwide patent on this system is free to use for poor countries who can implement it without having to pay anything for it. 

Electricity must be expensive 

In 2016, Figueroa tried to relaunch the project. The answer from the then Minister of Energy, Soria, was that electricity needed to be expensive. “But why? Explain it to me, but that was Soria’s answer. Three months later, with the publication of the Panama Papers, his dirty business was discovered and he resigned as minister,” Figueroa said. 

Despite all the information no lawsuit 

The writer has now handed over all information he has about his invention and all additional processes and contacts to Judge Eloy Velasco who is investigating the Acuamed case. “He’s got it, but why hasn’t that lawsuit come up until now? They threaten me, also with death, by phone, because I say what I say. My answer is that I’ve been through 9 wars where I was beaten shot. Consequently, they don’t bother me. 

Figueroa points to economic and political interests that stand in the way of his free desalination plant. In his efforts to demonstrate the project’s viability, he put all the money he earned as a bestselling author. He even renounced one of his houses in Madrid and his boat in Lanzarote to finance it. 

“Everything in this country is money and politics” 

As a telling anecdote, he once spoke to the general manager of the public water company of Murcia to offer him free and inexhaustible water. “You know what he said? That they would rather have the water from the Ebro diverted into the River Segura. Everything in this country is money and politics.” 

He continues: “If there is no water, Murcian agriculture will collapse; golf courses or urbanisations cannot be built around it; tourism will eventually perish. And all this will damage the banks in the long run. As I once told a group of inventors said, “If you want to know how successful your invention will be, never ask who will benefit from it. Always ask yourself who will be hurt.” 

More about the inventor 

Javier Vázquez-Figueroa was born in Tenerife in 1936 and grew up as an orphan in the Sahara under the care of his uncles. His childhood was steeped in the adventures of Conrad, Melville and Jules Verne. He was a diver with his teacher Jacques Cousteau and a war correspondent for TVE. 

Urgently need courageous solutions 

The conclusion in Hope’s video is: “The climate crisis is multiplying extreme droughts around the world. The UN warns that the situation is only getting worse and that the lack of water is forcing millions of people to choose between migrating or dying. It is time to come up with bold solutions to this grave threat on a global scale.” 

Also read: Water theft by officials in Andalucia

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