“I brush my teeth with bottled water”, sighs Francisca Benítez, a 76-year-old woman who takes advantage of the shade in the Lastras de Cuéllar café, a town deprived of drinking water less than two hours from Madrid, in the heart of Spain.
In Spain, where the quality of the water is seen threatened by agricultural pollution, the lack of controls and the drought, several dozen towns, in addition to Lastras, suffer from the same problem.
In this town of Castilla y León (center), nitrates and arsenic make water undrinkable for its inhabitants350 in winter and about a thousand in summer.
So every Monday they parade through the main square to collect water bottles subsidized by the mayor’s office, which will be carried in arms or wheelbarrows.
Among them Alejandro Martín, 17, who help his 95-year-old grandfather to find the precious water that he uses to make coffee.
Outside, garlands made from plastic bottles are hung on balconies along with posters showing demand access to drinking water.
“It is not normal in the 21st century”Mercedes Rodríguez, 41, is irritated.
Mayor Andrés García denounces his side “lack of money” public that has delayed a project that should bring drinking water by the end of the year.
Only in Castilla y León, 63 communities were deprived of water drinking in March, according to regional television. At the national level, there are no official figures.
According to the Ministry of Health, 67,050 analyzes performed in 2019 at the national level – sometimes in the same place on different dates – they showed that the water was not drinkable.
Y nitrate levels are disturbing since more than a quarter (28%) of the country’s groundwater stations show a concentration close to or greater than the threshold of potability and almost a quarter (22%) is “vulnerable” to this pollution due to the nature of the soils or agricultural activities, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
The agricultural pollution is increasingly noted. As in Lierta, in the Aragón region (northeast), without drinking water since 2018 due to nitrates and where the inhabitants fight against a project to install a farm with 3,000 pigs.
Under a scorching sun only a dog drinks from a fountain teeming with algae greener than the surrounding mountains, dominating a vast expanse of golden fields of grain dotted with pigsty.
Here are “20,000 pigs for about 50 inhabitants”, complains Bernard Más, 68, a member of a residents’ association that has just managed to suspend the project for a year at the last municipal council.
In the country where the pork product is highly valued, “intensive livestock, macro-farms they are being a problem“for the quality of water in the areas where they are located, due to manure, estimates Luis Babiano, president of the Spanish Association of Public Water Supply and Sanitation Operators.
But the excess of nitrates in water sources continues to be above all a “consequence of the use of fertilizers in agricultural activity”, which constitutes “the main problem” in the field, underlined a report from the Ministry of Ecological Transition from the end of 2020.
“In rural areas there is not enough control of the waters and the inhabitants of small population centers could be drinking unsafe water without knowing it, “warns the same report.
A situation that worries even in Brussels, where the European Commission issued an ultimatum to Spain in 2020 to improve its control of water quality, under penalty of high fines.
Likewise, the drought, which could worsen in Spain for climate change, threatens to jeopardize water quality.
Because if the amount of water decreases and the amount of harmful products in it does not decrease, lthe proportion of the latter increases, explains Luis Babiano.
In Lastras, Mercedes Rodríguez fears that water problems lead the people “to extinction”Since “who is going to come to live in a town that cannot drink tap water?”