THE desalination plant in the Bay of Palma was closed down for 199 days last year because of the heavy rainfall. According to the weatherman, the rainfall last year was 34 per cent higher than average. This meant that the Palma, Calvia, Andratx and Marratxi town councils purchased 13 million cubic metres less from the plant, which has a production capacity of 27 million cubic metres a year. At the moment, only one of the nine lines at the plant is in operation. But the lack of demand forced the price up. In 2001, when the plant supplied more water, it cost 90 pesetas a cubic metre. But last year, the price rose to 160 pesetas. The figures were provided by Balearic environment minister Margalida Rossello and the director general of water resources, Antoni Rodriguez Perea, after the central environment ministry announced the construction of four new desalination plants in the Balearics (Alcudia, Andratx, Ciutadella in Minorca and Santa Eulalia in Ibiza). Both Rosselló and Rodriguez criticised the announcement, saying that the plants did not comply with the water plan for the Balearics, approved by the central government a year ago, and promoted by minister Jaume Matas when he was leader of the Balearics. They said that plants could not be built here without the agreement of the Balearic government, which has full responsibility for water supplies. Rossello stressed that the plan says nothing about desalination plants. And, she says, when Matas opened the Bay of Palma plant, he said that Majorca's water problems were over, so “it is hard to understand why he wants to build four new plants now.” Rodriguez said that from a technical point of view, the four plants are unnecessary. He said that the 66 million euros for the four desalination plants would be put to better use in repairing leaking pipes, through which considerable amounts of water are lost. He also pointed out that work at Sa Costera, to channel fresh water which is currently lost at sea has not started and once completed would do away with the need for more desalination plants.