Councils given three years to reduce water losses in the network

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Galician Xunta plans to create tax on leaks exceeding 20% of supply

Two years ago now, in October of 2017, Galicia was experiencing an unprecedented situation. A significant part of the "land of the thousand rivers", as the region is poetically known, was facing drought and real difficulties in guaranteeing the water supply to its citizens. The gravity of the situation brought to light the absence of measures to tackle water shortages. The local government was therefore forced to create legislation that would not only outline how to deal with drought, but also establish measures to improve the pipe network and optimise supply.

The legislation will go before the Parliament of Galicia next week and, once approved, the  Law on measures to guarantee supply during periods of drought and situations of risk to health will start the countdown for affected authorities to comply with the provisions of the law. These measures include installing standardised meters to measure consumption (to be completed within one year), drafting an assessment process to quantify water losses (two years), approving a plan to minimise these losses (two years) and implementing  works to improve the network so that water leaks will not exceed 20% of the supply (to be completed within three years).

The legislation also requires local authorities with more than 20,000 residents to  draw up emergency plans for periods of drought. This measure had actually already been required by the Galician Water Act (Ley de aguas de Galicia) of 2010, but the 2017 drought revealed that not a single local authority had actually developed emergency plans. The current situation is different. Nearly a hundred Galician councils have requested government support, which the Xunta has allocated on condition that these plans will be drawn up by the end of the year 2020. Local authorities with fewer than 20,000 residents will be protected by Provincial Council decrees which outline measures to that effect.

The drought brought to light another serious problem: Significant water losses. In a region that had always received ample rain, leaks in the supply network had never seemed of particular importance. In fact, there were known cases of municipalities in which these leaks amounted to nearly 40% of the piped water. But the drought forced the government to take measures in this regard as well. Councils now have to develop processes to assess the status of their installations and, within three years, implement the necessary works so that losses do not exceed 20% of the supply. To achieve this, councils are relying on government support. The Xunta could finance both the development of the emergency plans and the necessary works to improve the pipe network.

Emergency plan

The Xunta had estimated that the law would be approved before summer, but it was delayed by several months. Fortunately, Galicia was far removed from any drought alerts this past summer. Nevertheless, the legislation must be processed, as it also seeks to impose a more appropriate use of water and gives the Galician administration the power to act in times of water shortage, including the power to expropriate land should it be deemed necessary. The Xunta also plans to create a new tax on water losses exceeding the stipulated 20%.

La Voz de Galicia, Councils given three years to reduce water losses in the network, https://www.lavozdegalicia.es/noticia/galicia/2019/10/07/concellos-tres-anos-reducir-perdidas-agua-red/0003_201910G7P7991.htm, retrieved on 25/10/2019.

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