A key aspect of the recently revised hydrological plan for the Balearics is that all town halls will have to guarantee that tap water is fit for human consumption.
The new regulations, in force since the end of last month, make clear that if supply does not meet quality standards, the government will oblige town halls to undertake treatment in order to ensure that it does. In cases where this treatment is not possible, town halls will have to draw supplies from desalination plants.
Joana Maria Garau, the director-general of water resources, says that this latter stipulation is not intended to be a revenue generator because of the sale of desalinated water. It is to guarantee that standards are complied with; some town halls do not comply at present. In Manacor, for example, there have been issues with tap water supply for 35 years.
Garau adds that town halls which are affected could enter into agreements with the regional government in order to put in place the necessary infrastructure. For this, she appeciates, there would need to be a reasonable pricing policy in order to recoup the costs of, for instance, being able to draw water from desalination plants; not all municipalities have this capability.
The government, she explains, is pushing the use of desalinated supply at a more economic price in the low season in order to prevent over-exploitation of aquifers. This prioritising of desalinated water affects Alcudia, where new developments have been blocked because of a lack of agreement between the environment ministry, the town hall and one of the supplier companies, Acasa.
The aquifers in Alcudia, the government believes, are over-exploited. It therefore wants Acasa to buy desalinated water (there is a plant in Alcudia) before giving the go-ahead to new residential developments, such as in Bonaire, and the building of a hotel with almost 1,000 beds near to the Horse Roundabout.
Acasa is demanding a revision of tariffs because of the cost involved, but the town hall has not been prepared to pass on the cost to consumers.