What about the desalination plants in Spain?

by admin

Spain is struggling with a water problem. Moreover, Spain’s 770 desalination plants could provide water to 34 million people, but at a higher price and with an impact on the environment.

There are now 20,000 desalination plants in operation in the world and 60% of their production is used to supply cities with drinking water. Saudi Arabia and the United States are the countries with the highest number of desalination plants in operation. Spain is in fifth place, with 770 desalination plants.

Desalination plants in Spain

Of all installations, 405 desalinate brackish water and 360 installations desalinate seawater. In concrete terms, more than 5 million cubic metres of desalinated water is produced per day in Spain. With more than 700 desalination plants already built, water could be supplied for a population of 34 million. Domingo Zarzo, president of the Spanish Association for Desalination and Reuse, calls Spain “a world power in desalination”

Barcelona even has the largest desalination plant in Europe. It is located in El Prat de Llobregat and has been in operation since 2009. The plant now supplies desalinated water to 5 million people, and can produce 200 million litres of water per day.

Also read: No more drinkable tap water in Barcelona if there is no rain

Spain’s first seawater desalination plant was installed in Lanzarote in 1964. This produced 2,500 m3 of drinking water per day. In total, the Canary Islands have 281 desalination plants in the province of Las Palmas and 46 in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Because the archipelago suffers from chronic water shortages, Canary Islands have the most desalination plants. In second place is the Spanish coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Balearic Islands.

Price of desalinated water

The big problem is the high price. For example, producing 1,000 litres of desalinated water at the Llobregat factory costs 70 cents. This is three times more than the cost of water from Catalan reservoirs. For this reason, “this technology is essential to alleviate a period of extreme drought like the one we are currently suffering.” But it is the last option,” explains Julio Barea, spokesperson for Greenpeace.

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A lot of energy needed

Currently, the energy consumption of a reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant is approximately 3 kWh/m3. In the first evaporation installations this was more than 50 kWh/m3. This means that desalinating 1 cubic metre (m³) of seawater now uses approximately 3 to 4 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy. This is comparable to the energy consumption of an average household washing machine for two to three washes. This means that for a city such as Alicante, with a daily consumption of approximately 200,000 m³ of desalinated water, the energy requirement for desalination alone could amount to approximately 600,000 to 800,000 kWh per day. This amount of energy is comparable to the daily energy consumption of thousands of households.

Renewable energy

To reduce the price of desalinated water, some plants use renewable energy sources. This could be solar energy, for example. But for the time being, expensive and polluting gas remains the main energy source for an installation that uses a lot of electricity. In this regard, energy consumption is the largest cost of desalinated water production, so its reduction is the most important factor in lowering the final price.

Impact of desalination plants on the environment

A problem with desalination plants is the brine residues. They return water with a high salt content to the sea, causing significant damage to the fauna and fish species that live in it. For example, Mediterranean water has an average of 37.5 grams of salt per litre. Near desalination plants this can increase to more than 70 grams. “We must therefore conduct a good environmental impact study,” warns Luis Babiano. This allows us to ‘find good locations for discharges and be successful in desalination.’

Recurring drought

Seven million people in Spain will ultimately live in areas of water scarcity with all the negative consequences that entails. The drought already costs €1,500 million per year, according to the latest report from the IPCC, the UN panel of experts on climate change).

Three new desalination plants

The Council of Ministers of Spain has approved an action plan to deal with the drought situation in Spain. Three new desalination plants will be built in the south of the peninsula, with an investment of €640 million. In addition, the State Water Company of the Mediterranean Basin (Acuamed) plans to invest a further €600 million in the construction of new, smaller solar desalination plants.

Main installations

According to data from the Aquae Foundation, the main desalination plants in Spain are located in 13 points of the Mediterranean. And it is important to take into account water production and supply to the population.

  • Torrevieja (Alicante): Produces 80 hm3/year. 140,000 inhabitants and 8,000 hectares benefit from it.
  • Del Bajo Almanzora (Almería): Produces 15 hm3/year. It guarantees water to 140,000 residents and benefits more than 24,000 irrigated hectares.
  • Carboneras (Almería): Produces 42 hm3/year. It benefits 200,000 people. It guarantees water to one of the driest provinces in Spain and provides irrigation to more than 7,000 irrigated hectares.
  • Campo de Dalias (Almería): Produces 30.1 hm3/year. Water for more than 300,000 residents.
  • Oropesa (Castellón): Produces 13.5 hm3/year. 150,000 people benefited from it.
  • El Atabal (Málaga): Produces 76 hm3/year. One of the largest desalination plants in Spain and the world with excellent water quality.
  • Valdelentisco (Murcia): Production capacity up to 70 hm3/year. 7,577 hectares of irrigated land benefits and supplies 60,000 people.
  • Águilas/Guadalentín (Murcia): Capacity to produce 70 hm3/year and benefit 130,000 people. A basic infrastructure for the Murcia region.
  • Sagunto (Valencia): Produces 25.6 hm3/year and benefits 65,000 people.
  • La Marina Baja (Alicante): Produces 18hm3/year. It benefits 200,000 people.
  • Moncofa (Castellón): Production capacity up to 19.8 hm3/year. 120,000 people benefited from it.
  • Marbella (Málaga): Provides quality water for the Costa del Sol, key role for high-quality tourism development.
  • From L’Eliana (Valencia): High quality water. It supplies 30,000 people.

Also read: State of emergency in Catalonia; new water restrictions in effect

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