THE Balearics is the region with the fourth highest amount of drinking water lost through leaky pipes - 23 percent of the total, on a par with Asturias, and after Aragon (35 percent), Valencia (29.9 percent) and the Basque Country (29 percent).
The North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are a case apart, where joint losses represent an average of 33 percent.
These are the latest figures available from the National Institute of Statistics, which also show that the regions which lose least water are La Rioja (11 percent), Galicia (13 percent), Madrid (13.6 percent) and Navarre (14 percent).
These figures include not only the amount of water lost through leaky pipes but other factors such as the amount of unregistered water, errors in measurements, fraud and unspecified factors.
Jaume Font, the Balearic environment minister, has already allocated funds for locating leaks, in collaboration with town and insular councils. Once the leaks are detected, further funding will be made available to repair them.
Balearics is not only one of the regions with the highest percentage of losses, it also has the dearest water in Spain.
However, this is because of the high level of treatment, particularly of sewage, which has been achieved over the years, much higher than the other regions of Spain, where very little importance is given to this matter.
The average price of water in the Balearics is 2.01 euros per cubic metre, nearly double the Spanish average of 1.08 euros and much higher than the second dearest, the 1.66 euros charged in the Canary Islands.
The Institute's study covers the two stages of the entire water treatment: supply (extracting, treatment and distribution) and cleaning (evacuation and sewage treatment). It also includes the variation in rates for domestic and industrial consumption.
The water rates in the Balearics also reflect the fact that the islands depend mainly on underground water tables, while other regions use mainly surface sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, which means that extraction is much cheaper.
In the Canary Islands, where prices are second highest, the determining factor is the need for desalination.
Seventy-six percent of water in the Balearics comes from underground resources and only 18 percent is on the surface. In the rest of Spain, 60 percent of water is from the surface and only 18 percent comes from underground.