Spain dries up.
After the summer with less rainfall since 1965, autumn presents with less rain than usual.
The harsh energy crisis unleashed by the war in Russia has been the focus of the debate for months.
Citizens have seen how their electricity and gas bills have skyrocketed.
The need to save energy has begun to permeate people, although it has been by force and by decree.
What about water consumption?
Drought is a more silent endemic evil, above all because it is a much cheaper resource than electricity or gas.
In 2020, the average price of water for domestic use stood at 1.90 euros per cubic meter and the bill represented 0.9% of the family budget, one of the lowest in Europe, according to data from the Spanish Association of Water Supply and Sanitation (AEAS).
But the situation of hydric stress demands urgent measures.
"Water management is the most important current challenge and especially critical in countries with a hot climate and few water resources such as Spain," says Silvia González, director of the company Aqua Ambient Ibérica and coordinator of the Greywater and Rainwater Commission of the Spanish Association of Companies in the Water Sector (Aqua Spain).
Few citizens know how much they pay for the water they use.
Nor do they know the liters used when putting on the washing machine or the consumption that their community of neighbors makes when watering the gardens.
“Water is cheap, so it is not an economic problem for citizens;
it is not urgent, they do not know if they consume a lot or a little”, says Luis Martín, director of Sustainable Hydrology, a consultancy for the sustainable use of water in buildings and urban environments.
Even so, some steps have been taken thanks to the technology that has come onto the market in recent decades, the municipal saving ordinances implemented in some Spanish towns and the public awareness campaigns to turn off the tap.
Average domestic consumption in 2020 was around 128 liters per person per day, according to AEAS.
In 2001 it was about 165 litres.
There is still a way to go to reach that figure of 100 liters per day that different international organizations consider sufficient for the citizens of developed countries to cover their vital needs.
It is not about saving in euros, but about avoiding the waste of a resource that will be increasingly scarce.
There are many actions that can be done at home, from the simplest, such as taking a shower instead of filling the bathtub with 200 liters of water, to the most complex from a technological point of view.
The first logical step is to check for leaks.
A community of neighbors can waste about 6,000 liters of water a day due to internal leaks, hidden breaks in buried pipes or leaks in swimming pools.
"Leaks in drinking water pipes are estimated to range from 4% to 25% depending on the municipality in Spain," says González.
To detect them and prevent exorbitant bills from arriving, a device with one or more flow sensors can be installed.
With these devices it is possible to save 2.5 million liters per year.
Faucets and cisterns
Inside the houses there are different saving systems that do not have an excessive cost.
For example, the aerators, which are placed in the mouth of the tap and which introduce air into the water jet.
According to Habitissimo, its price starts at 50 euros (for the simplest sinks) and can reach 200. There are also pressure regulators, which guarantee a maximum pressure of 2.5 kilos per square centimeter during all months of the year.
Another option is to change the old faucet for a thermostatic one, which allows to obtain a constant temperature of the water.
Its average cost is 240 euros.
In recent years, an invention has gained ground that avoids wasting water waiting for it to heat up.
AquaReturn, which came onto the market in 2013, is a small device, designed and manufactured in Spain, that prevents water from flowing out of the tap until it reaches 35 °C.
It is placed in five minutes on the cut-off valves of the sink and saves more than 10,000 liters per person per year in a 90-square-meter home.
"We have already exceeded 1,000 million liters saved thanks to our customers," they say in the company.
In Spain they have more than 800 points of sale and are present in 13 other countries.
It costs 286 euros.
It is important that the cisterns are double discharge.
"While in the old ones they were between 9 and 12 liters, in the modern ones the large flush is 6 liters and the small one is 3, although there are toilets that can lower these values to 4 and 2 liters respectively," they point out in Habitissimo.
Houses or developments with gardens are guaranteed a higher bill.
“It is the part that consumes the most water,” says Luis Martín, who has carried out several water audits in apartment buildings.
This expert recommends making a good design with plants that consume little water and that drip irrigation and not sprinkler irrigation be installed.
"Watering with a hose is nonsense," he says.
There should be automatic watering and set a schedule.
In the case of swimming pools, it is essential to cover the water when it is not being used.
But if we talk about large reductions in consumption, attention should be put on two technologies, which combined can achieve up to 40% savings, according to González.
The most effective —especially if it is considered before the construction of the building— is the reuse of gray water from showers, bathtubs and sinks, which, once treated, is used for toilets.
"It represents 21% of a home's water consumption," says industrial engineer Silvia González.
The Aqua Ambient company has done some work on residential buildings.
An example is the gray water recycling station for the treatment of 10 cubic meters per day in Sant Adrià del Besòs (Barcelona), supplying the toilets with recycled water with a centralized equipment installed in the underground car park.
The reuse of this gray water is feasible.
"A family of four generates about 500 liters a day between showers and hand washing, it is a significant volume that can be reused," says Jade Serra, a partner at the Slow Studio architecture studio.
However, the rainwater reuse system, which is used for, for example, irrigation of gardens, is less profitable and its implementation is anecdotal.
“It is unfeasible from the point of view of rainfall.
It does not rain enough in Spain compared to the consumption of a family and, furthermore, the investment is very high because an oversized deposit would be needed, of about 10,000 square meters, and the rainwater must be treated.
The numbers do not come out ”, insists Serra.
At Aqua Ambient they have installed some of these systems in residential buildings, especially in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, but they recognize their complexity.
"The problem is that in Spain it rains little and badly, so that either you have limited water or when it rains a lot you can't use it and it stagnates," explains González.
This is why Jade Serra talks about two measures that, in her opinion, are more affordable and easier to amortize.
"One is to make a more conscious consumption of water and another is to reduce it with dry toilets, something that is widely used in Nordic countries."
These are bathrooms that do not require water for the evacuation of waste.
Sawdust or other composting methods are used instead.
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