September 1, 2003
The paper is a comprehensive review of the Spanish National Hydrological Plan, which proposes to transfer water from the lower part of the Ebro River up to the Levante basins, around 912 km away. The National Hydrological Plan is a conventional, static plan, which focuses primarily on supply management. The plan is based on the explicit assumption that the world will change only incrementally during its entire economic life of 100–200 years. The analysis indicates that much of the increased water demands forecasted are unlikely to materialize due to increasing emphasis on demand management practices, major structural changes in the agricultural sector that will occur by 2020 and the requirements of the Water Directive of the European Union, which must be fulfilled by 2010. Even now, the cost per cubic metre of water delivered at the end of the transfer is nearly twice the cost of desalinated water. The National Hydrological Plan in its present form cannot be justified for economic, environmental and social reasons. In addition, the plan will not be necessary if demand management practices are implemented.