30-01-2016M. A. Cañellas

A package of measures is being introduced to increase water resources in the Balearics and combat drought. These include a specific decree for Ibiza, stopping withdrawals of water from the S'Estremera aquifer in Majorca, increasing connections from desalination plants and the incorporation of a drought plan into the general water resources plan.

The regional government points to a combination of high temperatures, increased population, pressure on resources and the condition of some facilities as making such action necessary to ensure water supplies.

The S'Estremera aquifer, a key source of supply for Palma, will be gradually closed down, says the minister for the environment and agriculture, Vicenç Vidal, who points to what he considers to have been an abusive level of extraction as well as to the absence of a drought plan because the previous government failed to approve it.

The government will be issuing advice to all municipalities as to the management of water resources, will be initiating an awareness campaign and will be updating currently underutilised irrigation systems. There are to also be specific measures for the farming sector, such as new lines of finance and the freezing of the tax for incinerating waste.

The lack of rain is such that in Majorca in the final quarter of 2015 the volume was 71% lower than the average of the past thirty years, while water resources in December were 11% lower than had been the case in the preceding ten years.

The other islands are also badly affected. Ibiza is in a situation of hydrological drought, while in Formentera there is total reliance on desalinated water.

Part of the solution to the problems of drought and salinisation of aquifers lies, reckons the government, with unconventional resources, such as treated water and desalination. With regard to the latter, this will involve greater production at the Palma plant, the connection of the Andratx plant to the local water network at a cost of 60,000 euros and added power to the Alcudia plant. The new measures that the government is adopting will be on top of those by the water agency, Abaqua, which has been making improvements to facilities such as S'Estremera and in Puerto Soller.

A different class of drought - agricultural drought - has come about because of the low rainfall in November and December. The growth of grazing crops has been stunted and so animal feed stock has been reduced, which is endangering the viability of some farm livestock. The effects of drought on crops mean, obviously, lower production not just because of the absence of rain but also because of poor seed germination and the emergence of pests and disease.

The government will be making available 1.5 million euros of aid to farmers as well as access to further finance - up to a value of 8 million euros - from the agriculture and fisheries guarantee fund. The government is also requesting that losses are taken into account in tax declarations.

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