The Catalan government has finally approved its 2022-2027 Water Management Plan this Tuesday. The European Commission raised the issue with the Catalan Generalitat a month ago for its failure to present the plan, which should have arrived in Brussels at the end of last year. Finally, in the context of drought and in the middle of the municipal election campaign, the government has today passed a Water Management Plan for the internal catchment basins for the period 2022-2027, aimed at preserving and improving water quality and guaranteeing supply.
The Plan envisages investments to a value of 2.4 billion euros to "prepare the country for droughts that will become increasingly frequent and more severe", according to the government's spokeswoman, Patrícia Plaja. The aim is for Catalonia to have other means that just depending on the rains to have water, and thus the Plan outlines efficiency improvement and an increase in production, bearing in mind that, according to the Catalan Water Agency (ACA), a reduction of up to 18% in the amount of water available can be expected by 2050.
Administrative delay, according to the ACA
The ACA downplays the delays in the presentation of the Plan, and asserts that the Spanish government is responsible for the hold-up, since it approved a one-year extension for the drafting of the Plan in the wake of Covid and the eight-month hiatus caused by the Catalan elections, which slowed down its development. In any case, the director of the ACA, Samuel Reyes, noted that Catalonia is not the only Spanish autonomous community that has been warned by the European Commission, pointing out that this is an "administrative delay" given that many of the actions provided for in the Plan have already been underway for months because they are incorporated in an annex of the previous five-year plan. Reyes affrimed that there will be no sanctions from Brussels.
Of the 2.4 billion euros foreseen in the Plan, the ACA will contribute 1.4 billion. This, according to the director of the agency, should not lead to an increase in water charges next year, although he made it clear that this decision depends on the Catalan government's budget. The programme envisages allocating 866.6 million euros to improving water quality; 1.4 billion euros for actions to increase the availability, regeneration and modernization of irrigation systems; 150 million euros for the prevention of extreme phenomena, that is to say, to reduce the risk of floods; and 3.6 million euros to encouraging research.
Aid to the farmers, still not specified
For another week, the Catalan cabinet's weekly meeting has failed to specify the aid which farmers affected by the drought will receive, even though on Friday of last week the Generalitat pledged to supplement the aid announced by the Spanish government. "There will be specifics. It is being assessed weekly. And we will soon be specific", asserted the government spokesperson, explaining that the aid will start with fodder crops, and winter cereals will be left for later.
The spokesperson assured that there will be details when the agricultural committee meets at the end of the month. Although she did not want to advance any dates or figures, she assured that they will be finalized before the end of this month.