Reducing the dependence on rainwater, and consequently the swamps, and betting on regeneration was one of the messages launched yesterday by experts at the VIII Tourism, Territory and Society Conference, organized by the Jordi Comas Matamala Foundation in Cap Roig, in Calella de Palafrugell.

The director of Agbar, Jorge Manent, explained that if the investments in regeneration are carried out, the swamps will become “a complement” and not the “main source” of obtaining water as has happened until now, a fact that has put into question serious difficulties for all economic sectors, from tourism to agriculture, including industry.

Currently, 25% of the water consumed in the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona is regenerated, a percentage that will grow if the actions are applied in the Besòs River basin, as contemplated by the company from the Next Generation funds.

“If we bet on regeneration, the dependence on the Ter river will be much less”, said the manager of Aigües de Barcelona in a round table on water and tourism moderated by the deputy director of La Vanguardia, Enric Sierra.

One idea, that of increasing the percentages of reuse of wastewater, which was also shared by Jordi Morató, director of the Unesco Chair of Sustainability at the UPC, who ruled out other solutions such as the one proposed by several professional associations that advocated interconnection with the Ebro in case of emergency. “Structural solutions are needed and that involves regeneration, otherwise there will come a time when water from the south will not be enough either,” he added.

The professor indicated that Spain “is the third country with the most water consumption in Europe and the third in terms of water resources” and urged to accelerate infrastructure since the swamps only have storage capacity for one year of consumption. For his part, the director of Agbar pointed out that water meshing “is a good solution in emergency cases.”

What they both agreed on is the need not to convert the mini-desalination plants, which this summer are scheduled to be implemented in various parts of the territory such as in areas of Alt Empordà, where there are a dozen municipalities that are still in the exceptional phase, in a permanent resource due to its high energy cost and environmental impact. “It is a valid and complementary solution, but it should not be structural,” said Manent.

Even so, he pointed out that in this drought episode, if it had not been for the desalination plants and water regeneration, which contributed up to 60% of consumption, the Barcelona metropolitan area would not have been spared from “massive cuts.”

They also agreed that an episode of drought like the one experienced in recent years will be repeated and that we must be better prepared. Although the rains have improved the reserves of the internal basins, the situation remains delicate. “We are the same as a year ago,” Manent acknowledged.

Morató explained that some studies indicate that climate change will increase water needs, for example for irrigation, by up to 20%, and urged the search for innovative solutions. He explained the case of Tunisia, a country that has been in drought for five years, and that is being planted to irrigate underground.

Regarding the impact of tourism in this crisis, both indicated that it is not the main culprit of the drought, since it represents between 3 and 4% of water consumption in Catalonia. The measures applied by the sector, such as changing bathtubs for showers or placing aerators in taps, have allowed a reduction in consumption of between 25% and 50% per person between 2007 and 2022, according to a study by the Gremi d’Hotels of Barcelona.

During the day, frequent railway problems were also discussed. Both the commissioner for the comprehensive transfer of Rodalies in Catalonia, Pere Macias, and Isabel Pardo de Vera, who was president of Adif in 2020, agreed on the impossibility of monitoring the entire network to prevent thefts like the one at the weekend.

They also agreed on the lack of investment that infrastructure has suffered historically. Macias explained that between 2007 and 2019 not a single Rodalies or Regional train was purchased and Vera explained that since 2005, during the construction of the AVE, only 250 million investments were allocated to the conventional train network throughout Spain.