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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 00:45 GMT 01:45 UK
Spain moves to ease water shortage
Oxford boat team on Ebro river
The Ebro river is source of leisure pursuits
By Flora Botsford in Madrid

The Spanish Government has unveiled a $16m plan which it says will help solve some of the country's water shortages.

The plan involves pumping 1000 cubic hectometres of water from the Ebro river basin near the northern Basque region and diverting it to parched areas on the eastern Mediterranean coast.

Water and its distribution have been troubling the Spanish authorities for some time.

This plan goes back 15 years and could help with some of the problems of one of Europe's driest countries.

Such is Spain's regional diversity in terms of geography and climate that some areas with high rainfall can be expected to share water supplies with their parched compatriots.

But disputes over water have flared ever since the Romans first began building aqueducts in Iberia nearly 2,000 years ago, and the government's latest water solution is equally controversial.

Water distribution

The favoured plan would involve collecting huge amounts of water every year from the Ebro river basin, which starts near the northern Basque region, and transporting it to the dry eastern provinces on the Mediterranean.

The government says it is not catering for increasing consumption but simply trying to meet the existing demand for water.

Considering cost and impact on the environment, the government believes this is the best of several options.

Other plans would have an impact on Portugal by diverting rivers which flow across the border.

But environmentalists have criticised the Ebro plan, saying it would alter water levels, and they want the government to save water by reducing wastage in the existing infrastructure instead.

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