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Cablegate: Spain: Water Bill Passed by Lower House

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

221526Z Apr 05

UNCLAS MADRID 001580

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR OES/PCI AND EUR/WE; EPA FOR
INTERNATIONAL/WAXMONSKY AND PHILLIPS; DEPARTMENT ALSO PASS
TO ESTH COLLECTIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN: WATER BILL PASSED BY LOWER HOUSE

REF: 04 MADRID 3393

1. The Spanish lower house of Congress passed April 21 a
landmark reform of the country's water policy, thus advancing
one of the Socialist Party (PSOE) government's leading
environment-related policy goals. The bill passed by a vote
of 188 in favor, 135 against (the former ruling Popular Party
members), and three abstentions. The bill now moves to the
Senate, which can impede, but not kill, legislation.

2. The passage of this legislation will effectively
terminate the Popular Party's grand scheme to bring water to
the country's parched Mediterranean coastline by diverting
the course of the Ebro river. In its place, Spain will make
major efforts to construct additional (and renovate/expand
existing) coastal desalinization plants. It will also take
several regulatory steps to curb the water demand growth
rate. (Note: See reftel for greater detail on the PSOE's
water management "vision." End Note.)

3. The PSOE had to accept almost 200 modifications of its
original water bill in order to gain the necessary support of
several smaller parties. Certain more controversial parts of
the bill were subject to separate votes (to allow micro-party
opponents of pieces of the legislation to oppose parts of it
while still voting in favor of the overall bill).

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4. One interesting modification introduced by the bill is
the requirement that the Environment Ministry's eight
regional Hydrographic Confederations emit hydrographic impact
studies before the central government approves any regional
community or local development project. The idea is to
better factor in the water-related impact of development
planning. In theory, the Environment Ministry will refuse to
approve development schemes if there are not sufficient water
resources to meet the expected increased demand.

5. Another new aspect to Spain's water policy is the
legislation's creation of "environmental agents" working for
the regional Hydrographic Confederations. These agents will
have the authority to make unannounced inspections of
waterworks and their reports can be introduced as evidence in
any state prosecution for environment-related crimes.

6. COMMENT: Since taking power a year ago, the PSOE
government has made significant progress in advancing its two
major environment-related policy goals: (1) moving water
policy from an emphasis on river diversion to desalinization
(along with a far greater emphasis on reducing the water
demand growth rate); and (2) revising Madrid's
bureaucratic/regulatory framework in order to make a good
faith effort to meet Spain's Kyoto Protocol-mandated
greenhouse gas emissions targets. The opposition Popular
Party (PP) has gained little traction in attacking the PSOE's
environmental priorities. The PP's river diversion plan was
widely viewed as a wasteful scheme designed to line the
pockets of PP-linked landowners, contractors, and local
politicians. Spain's Kyoto commitments are enshrined in
international treaty law and EU Directives.

MANZANARES

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