Water is a vital element, present everywhere in our body, our daily life, our landscapes, our ecosystems, guaranteeing biodiversity. Broadly, according to data from the United Nations, the importance of water today in human activities is distributed between agriculture (70%), industry (15%) and domestic use (15%).
From the point of view of “ecosystemic services” that we obtain from nature, water provides a dual service: regulation (enabling the functions of our planet, regulating weather and climate) and supply of a raw material (agriculture, industry).
Water is clearly a source of life, in every sense. But why is it considered white gold?
To begin with, since December 14, 2020, water is traded on the stock market and, for now, futures on this valuable raw material are not mobilizing much investment. But if its use becomes popular, it could affect the price of water and domestic sewage.
However, one in three people do not have access to healthy drinking water, nor sufficient clean water to wash their hands and prevent infections by reducing the propagation of pathogens.
The shortage of water prevents it from being used in the sewage process in settlements, creating severe urban hygiene problems. In addition, over 80% of waste water in developing countries is discharged without treatment, and some industries dump polluted water without control.
For these two main reasons, water in rivers, lakes and coastal areas contains a number of harmful substances, representing a threat to the health of living beings and balance in the ecosystem. These substances include everything from industrial chemicals to microplastics, drugs and hormones, oils and petrochemicals.
For many years, the scientific community, nongovernmental associations and supranational organizations have attempted to reduce these problems by raising the awareness of Public Authorities and citizens about the importance of taking care of this resource, not wasting it or polluting it.
In Spain, several national laws have addressed this subject, and in 2001 Official Legislative Degree 1/2001, of July 20, was published, approving the consolidated text of the Water Act. The primary goal is to regulate the public water domain and the use of water. It establishes the basic rules for protecting continental, coastal and transition waters, notwithstanding any applicable legal classification and specific legislation.
Currently, a number of judicial resolutions in Spain have classified water as a scarce commodity. According to the latest UN report, 98% of the population of Spain has drinking water service and 97% has an adequate sewage system.
Despite positive progress in meeting the goals, Spain still has a lot to do to bridge the gap between reaching objectives in the different territories of Spain and ensuring equality among citizens with regard to this resource.
Iballa Naranjo is professor of Projects and Urbanism