Seawater Desalination and the Political Ecology of Water
Edited by Joe Williams and Erik Swyngedouw
Chapter 2: Wet dreams with a grain of salt: desalination in Spain’s water policy
This chapter traces the origins of desalination in Spain in the 1960s which we relate to the parallel emergence of nuclear power. Contrary to the latter, however, desalination did not take off because of its high costs, and, more importantly, because of the preference of Spanish water planners for conventional hydraulic works such as dams, reservoirs and aqueducts. After decades of obscurity, desalination resurfaced in the 1990s, when a series of droughts hit the country, and especially after 2004, when social opposition to conventional hydraulic solutions (the Ebro water transfer) made this alternative the selected option for Eastern and Southeastern Spain through the so-called AGUA Programme. The crisis of 2007 and its devastating effects on the urbanization of the Mediterranean coast showed the limits of the ambitious AGUA Programme with many desalination plants canceled or working at very low capacities amidst accusations of overspending and corruption.
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