Spain yesterday unveiled a $16 billion plan to pump huge amounts of water from the Ebro River basin into parched eastern regions in a controversial move that was 15 years in the making. The Balearics is also set to receive thousands of millions of pesetas to build desalination plants. Spain is one of Europe's driest countries and regional disputes over water have flared ever since the Romans began building aqueducts in Iberia nearly 2'000 years ago. Environment Minister Majorcan Jaume Matas said the new project would capture 1'000 cubic hectometres of water per year. The Madrid daily El Pais has said that is enough to provide each of Spain's 40 million people with 70 litres of water each day. Spain's Water Council, made up of 100 representatives of sectors affected by the project, is to meet on September 25 to begin debating the proposals before passing recommendations to the government cabinet, possibly at the end of the year. “It is not a case of increasing consumption, but rather of meeting the demand that currently exists,” Matas said.