Among European Union countries, Spain emerges as not only one of those with cheapest water tariffs but also where clean and safe drinking water is accessible to all its citizens. Statistically, approximately 98 percent of the town or city inhabitants and 93 percent of the countryside inhabitants are linked to sewers, whereas the rest are provided by on-site hygiene schemes for instance septic tanks.
Municipalities in Spain are charged with the duty of supplying water and they do so by contracting both private liability companies and qualified public companies or supplying themselves. Because of contracting others supplies, 60 percent of total water used in Spain is supplied by private water suppliers under dispensation of these municipals with Aguas de Barcelona claiming 50 percent.
Spain government passed Royal Decree-Law in 1926 that allowed creation of river basin organizations which marked the beginning government’s commitment towards providing clean water to its citizens.” The first river basin agencies (Confederaciones Hidrograficas) were created in the Ebro basin and in the Segura basin in 1926, followed by the Guadalquivir in 1927 and the Eastern Pyrenees in 1929” (Advanced Purification Engineering Corporation 1).
Later in 1961, river basin organizations were formed in the whole nation, which continues to serve most Spain nationals up to now with few exceptions.
Depending with geographical location and prevailing weather conditions, different parts of Spain receive water from different sources. However, on average “approximately 74 percent of water supplied by Spain municipalities come from surface water, only 19% in surface water and 7% in springs and desalination,” (Bartram 2).
Since southern part of Spain is frequently hit by droughts, desalinated seawater is the common source of water. As asserted by International Water Association, desalination plants were increased to over 700 in 2004 thereby increasing accessibility to clean and safe drinking water to southern inhabitants.
Information on annual water usage in Spain differs depending with the source and method used for sampling. Research done by International Water Association in 40 cities reflects, “Water use as between 169 l/c/d in Valencia and 192 l/c/d in Valencia, including industrial water use” (Theilig 3). These consumption statistics level tally on average with that of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. On the other hand, according to report published in 2008, “water consumption about 280 liter per capita and day (l/c/d)” (Bartram 3).
Presently, Spanish government has stepped up its efforts to ensure sustainable access to safe water for all its citizens and there have been deliberate efforts to “increase number and size of desalination plants in order to meet growing water demand. The goal of this program is to obtain drinking water from the seas and rivers, as well as to improve the re-use of treated wastewater” (Bartram 4).
In Spain, reverse osmosis water treatment technology is commonly used with up to 50% of total water used being treated by this technology. This has been specifically beneficial to the four independent communities adjacent to the Mediterranean Coast.
Reverse osmosis is whereby “water is moved across the membrane against the concentration gradient, from lower concentration to higher concentration i.e. pressure is exerted on the side with the concentrated solution to force the water molecules across the membrane to the fresh water side” (Theilig 2)
Depending on the water source, there are different treatment methods that can be used and therefore, municipalities and private companies employ different methods to sanitize water (Theilig 5). For instance, water drawn from either underground aquifer or surface water supply like a river is first pumped in a reverse osmosis unit where water undergoes treatment. According to Advanced Purification Engineering Corporation:
The treated water is then pumped under pressure into a distribution system, which typically consists of a network of pipes (water mains) interconnected with ground level or elevated storage facilities (reservoirs). As it is withdrawn from the source, surface water is usually screened through steel bars, typically about 1 in (2.54 cm) thick and about 2 in (5.08 cm) apart, to prevent large objects such as logs or fish from entering the treatment facility(2)
Water is used for many purposes ranging from domestic, irrigation, industrial and as fire extinguishing agent. The main water supply for firefighting processes in Spain is the hydrants. By definition, “a fire hydrant is an above-ground connection that provides access to a water supply for the purpose of fighting fires” (Cavette 1).
If the hydrant is linked to the water hidden in the street, it is always pressurized to provide enough pressure to fight fire. Pressurized hydrants are classified as either dry-barrel or wet barrel. There are various diverse types of hydrants used in Spain currently; Smith low-pressure hydrant, Dresser low-pressure hydrant, Chapman and Eddy hydrants and high-pressure hydrants (Brisaboa and Martinez 8).
There are situations where there are no hydrants; in this case, Spain has acquired booster tanks, which come in to fight fire emergencies. Booster tanks have the capability to draft water from stagnant sources for instance lakes, pools, or rivers.
Water-circulation structures that serve Spain cities, towns, and industries are generally categorized as being of the tree, gridiron, or loop type. They either can be combined or used individual depending on the complexity of design and application. By definition Gagliardi and Liberatore states that:
In the loop system, large feeder mains that surround areas many city blocks square serve smaller cross-feed lines connected at each end into the main loop. In the gridiron (or grid) system, the piping is laid out in checkerboard fashion, with piping usually decreasing in size as the distance increases from the source of supply.
In the tree system, there is a single trunk main, reducing in size with increasing distance from its source of supply; branch lines are supplied from the trunk. The grid and loop systems provide better reliability because of their multiple paths (1)
The loop and grid structures are commonly used in Spain since they offer enhanced dependability because of their numerous paths. These piping systems are regularly boosted with feeder pipes coming directly from “water pumping station to remote distribution centers serving to bolster the supply to meet increased demands with growth of population” (Gagliardi and Liberatore 2). Below is a diagram showing how piping in Spain is done:
Source: Gagliardi and Liberatore 2
Spain is among the top on the list for those nations, which provide affordable, safe and constant water to its citizens in the European Union community. In areas, which often face drought spells particularly southern part of Spain, the government has built over 900 desalination units for treatment purposes.
Concerning disaster preparedness, municipalities have thousands of hydrants placed strategically in near buildings. This is backed by firefighting tanks where have the capacity to draft water from any stagnant source be in a river or a lake.
Advanced Purification Engineering Corporation. Reverse osmosis drinking water systems. Ithaca, NY: Cornell U, 2010. Print.
Bartram, Jamie. “A global network for water professionals. “ Journal of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Development, 4.1(2010): 1-10.
Brisaboa, Nieves and Martinez, Antonio. “The E.I.E.L. project: an experience of GIS development.” Water Distribution System Journal, 43.1(2003):1-16.
Cavette, Chris. “Fire hydrant” How Products are Made, 4.1(2010):1-3.
Gagliardi, Michael and Liberatore, Louis. “Piping Water system.” Piping Systems Journal 3.1(2008):1-14.
Theilig, Susana.” Naval station rota Spain drinking water.” Consumer Confidence Journal, 4.2(2010):1-5.
Source: Brisaboa and Martinez 12