Image courtesy of JP Puerta via flickr
In a bid to stave off worsening drought conditions, Barcelona is looking to an unlikely source of support: Marseille, France. Société des eaux de Marseille (SEM), a firm that supplies water to the city of Marseille, and Aquas de Barcelona, a firm that fulfills the same role for Barcelona's residents, are close to signing a deal that would see the French supplier deliver up to 25,000 cubic meters a day by tanker-boat starting in May.
Barcelona's residents regularly consume close to 650,000 cubic meters of water a day; however, because of a severe drought that has lasted several months, the city's water supplies are at a record low - 22% less than normal levels. Its long-term strategy for dealing with a drier climate is the construction of a large desalination plant - with a capacity to process 200,000 cubic meters of water - before the end of 2009.In the Mediterranean Basin, Marseille is one of the few cities sufficiently flush with large quantities of water to be able to supply other cities in the area; during the last three decades, SEM effectuated 226 tanker-boat deliveries - amounting to 1.5 million cubic meters of water - to several parched regions of Spain. It helps that Marseille's residents also consume much less water than their Spanish compatriots - about 300,000 cubic meters every day.
With climates becoming more arid around the world, we are likely on the cusp of a new era of international water trade. Although the increased commoditification of water will help price it more accurately, there is the threat that similar schemes will spark conflicts in cities or countries with poor access to water and severely harm the livelihoods of many.