STATISTICS indicate that Majorca is just starting another cycle of drought, after two years of heavy rains. Drought does not mean the absence of rain, but rather a deficit compared to average rainfall. There are sufficient reserves, but water should not be wasted, is the message from the authorities.
The weather graphs give a good idea of the picture.
The period of drought from 1999 to 2001 was followed by the cycle from 2001-03, which is now closing, with heavier rainfall than average but with a clear downward trend in the last few months of last year. This year opened with negative results and the downward trend will probably continue, although there may be occasional periods of heavy rain.
Joan Crespi, the director general of water resources, was moderately optimistic about the availability of water for the immediate future, although he was quick to point out: This does not mean that we can waste water. Water is scarce and we must learn to save it. Everything points towards the start of a drought, which should not surprise us, as these shortfalls of rain run in cycles. But what we don't know is if the drought which is starting now will be light or intense, long or short. We have reserves, but we must take good care of them. Crespi expressed his concern at the steady drop of levels in the aquifers, the underground water tables which are the chief source of supplies, over the past 20 years. Thanks to the heavy rains of the past two years, and with good management of these underwater supplies, we can maintain the aquifers at the levels of the early 1990s, Crespí said. This, he added, will guarantee supplies fully for the next two years. He went on to say that just as we cannot fall into a false sense of security or optimism, nor should we be alarmist. He explained that if the drought continues for more than two years, by the end of that period we should be able to count on other major supplies of water such as Sa Costera or desalination plants. He said the water from Sa Costera, currently lost into the sea, will not be used only for Soller and the Bay of Palma, but it can be stored as reserves at S'Estremera, or even piped to the Bay of Alcudia. In this way, he added, we can exchange water and compensate for shortages in different parts of the island. Sa Costera will provide an average of 12 million cubic metres of water a year. Consumption of Palma and Calvia is about 45 million cubic metres a year. The pipelines should be completed within two years.
Jaume Font, head of the environment department, said that there are sufficient reserves to prevent a repeat of the Operation Boat, in which water was shipped from the Peninsula, and which Palma and Calvia residents are still paying. The Mediterranean climate is characterised by periods of drought followed by periods of heavy rain.
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