THE government has announced plans to levy charges on homes that use an excessive amount of water.
The move comes as Spain attempts to curb water shortages following two years of drought. Levels in reservoirs in the south east of the country are currently so low, drinking water for towns in Murcia and Albacete is currently pumped from elsewhere.
Speaking at the start of a meeting with the National Water Council to discuss several changes to the country’s water laws, Environment Minister Cristina Narbona announced plans to limit the amount of water used to 60 litres a day per person.
“In principle, we are suggesting a minimum amount of water a household can use. There will be a reform of the water law to penalise excessive consumption.”
She added the government wants to hit households that use more than this amount with a surcharge.
Señora Narbona did not reveal how the plans, which if passed will become law in 2010, will affect the agriculture sector. Farming accounts for 80 per cent of all water usage in Spain.
Under the present water law, local councils are in charge of setting water tariffs for domestic use. However, only a handful of city and town halls place surcharges on households that use excessive amounts of water, among them Granada, Barcelona and Cuidad Real. Madrid even offers tax incentives to lessen the amount its residents use.
According to the Institute of National Statistics, Spain sits top of the league in global household water usage. Each member of its population uses an average of 171 litres of water per day.
Zimbabwe is at the opposite end of the scale with an average of less than 10 litres being used by each person every day.
A spokeswoman for the main opposition Partido Popular agreed measures have to be taken to reduce the amount of water used each day in Spain. However, she said households must not be asked to pay for any excess of water they use.
“This is an obsession of the present government: to tax water.”