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Water Week Friday, 27 March, 1998, 18:48 GMT
Vienna water works
Simitz
Locals in the village of Simitz are suspicious about the plans to pipe water to Spain
To deal with droughts in southern countries the European Commission is looking into the possibility of tapping into the sources of water-rich countries like Austria.

If its plans to establish a European Water Network are realised, then Alpine water could be flowing into a Spanish city rather than Vienna's reservoirs. BBC correspondent Angus Robertson discovered why not everyone thinks that is a good idea.

map
A hi-tech pipeline already carries water 300km from the Alps to Vienna
Vienna's water is a hi-tech affair. Some 97% of the city's supply is mountain spring quality. State of the art technology regulates its flow from the Alps along a 300km network of pipelines.

But the idea that precious, high quality spring water could be transported to Spain or Greece is controversial in Austria. Ecologists warn that exporting large amounts of water could wreak havoc on the sensitive alpine environment. The network would also cost millions of pounds to set up.

Nevertheless, the European Union is now working out how this water could be taken out of the region's eco-system and transported across the continent. The plans are creating unease among the people who live in the Alps, at the source of the water.

Mayor Georg Wurmitzer
The Mayor of Simitz says the plan is 'ecological and economic madness'
In the mountain village of Simitz, south west of Vienna, local tradition has always seen water as more than a resource. Earliest records stress the sacred nature of the region's water. The village church is built on top of a spring.

Water rights in the region are also tied to land ownership and come under state and not EU jurisdiction.

The mayor of Simitz, Georg Wurmitzer has strong reservations about the planned network. He is leading a local campaign to use water more efficiently.

"From my point of view it is a sacred duty to help someone who is suffering from thirst. However it is a sin to transfer water just so that people can flush their toilets and wash their cars in dry areas of Europe. It makes no sense and is ecological and economic madness," said the mayor.

house
This house makes the most of water
Group Inspector Serafin Berger of the local police is also one of the town's efficiency pioneers. He has been building a house for several years which re-uses rainwater to flush the toilet and water the garden. He also only uses drinking water where absolutely necessary.

It is his wish that the people in the dry areas of Europe take heed of Simitz's water efficiency before taking their water.

Links to more Water Week stories are at the foot of the page.


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