Tapping the Oceans
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Tapping the Oceans

Seawater Desalination and the Political Ecology of Water

Edited by Joe Williams and Erik Swyngedouw

Increasingly, water-stressed cities are looking to the oceans to fix unreliable, contested and over-burdened water supply systems. Desalination technologies are, however, also becoming the focus of intense political disagreements about the sustainable and just provision of urban water. Through a series of cutting-edge case studies and multi-subject approaches, this book explores the political and ecological debates facing water desalination on a broad geographical scale.
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Chapter 2: Wet dreams with a grain of salt: desalination in Spain’s water policy

David Saurí, Santiago Gorostiza and David Pavón


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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