Energy, Food and Water in Spain

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Ed. Note: We are happy to share this reader response, which is part of a series developed by environmental science students at Loyola University Chicago from the course Environmental Sustainability.

The energy sector in Spain is considerably developing and upholds a positive status internationally particularly in renewable energy in which the country is a global leader. The Spanish demand for electricity increased by 1.3 percent from 2016 to 2017 (Adrada). Spain imports energy from other states including North and West Africa, the Middle East and Russia (Energia 16), whereby the nation imported 9,220 MWh to cover its demand (Adrada). Facilities generating electricity reduced by 0.6 percent from 2016 with only an installed power capacity of 104,517MW by end of 2017 (Adrada). Other energy sources replaced hydro use including combined cycle which increased from 10.2 percent in 2016 to 13.9 percent in 2017 and coal which rose from 13.9 percent in 2016 to 17 percent in 2017 and wind, 13.7 percent (Adrada). Other energy sources include natural gas and liquid fuels usually imported since the country does not produce. 

Renewable energy covers about 50 percent of electricity production in Spain, and although the country has made a significant improvement in its energy sector, it still relies significantly on energy imports which account for 70 percent (Energia 16). The feasibility of Spanish renewable energy is threatened by the Energy Reform Bill 2012 which reduces subsidies (Adrada). Galarraga et al. indicate that oil account for 97 percent of automobile energy consumption (2). Spain plans to introduce various technologies including smart grid technology aimed to make economic profits of 2-2.3 EUR (Adrada). The Spanish energy resources are unhealthy particularly since the state lacks natural gas and oil resulting in high reliance on import and thus overall energy insecurity. Improving on other energy sources especially renewable sources by integrating better technologies would enable Spain to reduce its overreliance on imported energy, consequently reducing the economic burden on its population. The following graph shows the inputs and outputs of the Energy section in Spain.  

Spanish food security is stable with both production and access guaranteed and, therefore, the population is guaranteed food nutrition and safety (Lopez-Gunn et al. 24). Thus, the availability of food allows for sufficient food intake per household. The country’s consumption rate has changed over the years with population abandoning traditional and Mediterranean diets and adopting unhealthy intake. The population consumes more meat products than daily recommendations and high alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks which accounts for increased calorie intake than recommended (Moreiras et al. 40-42). Household food expenditure in 2014 was 27,038, a 0.3 percent rise compared to 2013 and 10,759 per person the same year (Press Release 1). Food Waste indicates that Spain wastes food amounting to about 2.9 million tons per year which is roughly 63 kilograms per person (17). Retailers also contribute greatly in food wastage which usually contributed by the excessive ordering of food products and best and sell by labels that restrict when products should be sold and used resulting in disposal once the dates expire despite the food being suitable to consumption (Food Waste 29). 

The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 encourages the donation of food especially by retailers in Spain to avoid wastage although donations are significantly low in the country (Food Waste 31). Some government initiatives against food waste include the EU Member States Landfill Directive which aims at minimizing the amount of biodegradable waste inflowing into landfills (Food Waste 7). Spain engages in industrialized agriculture although the country recorded increase organic farming since the mid-1990s through conversion of furrow lands and irrigation. The obesity rate among Spanish adults was 26.7 percent in 2008. The country has food security with typical meals comprising of meat and milk products, wheat and fruits. Soil fertility is, however, compromised with high levels of acidity, low PH resulting from industrialized emissions, lack of organic matter, organic matters, and heavy metals in soils chemical fertilizers are used. Although Spain has food security, introducing better technologies that can help filter soil pollution and afforestation can help protect soil as well as reduce pollution. The graph below is a concept map that explains the inputs and outputs of the food sector in Spain. 

Spain’s economic sector uses about 100km3 per year whereby agriculture utilizes about 80 percent of both virtual and national water, industrial sector, and urban water supply accounts for 15 percent and 5 percent respectively (Aldaya et al. 16). Main water sources in the country comprise surface and groundwater including dams and desalination technologies that produce water. Potable water in Spain is accessible to all with tap water rated safe for drinking with 100 percent accessibility to population (Ritchie and Roser). Much of this water originates from rivers including River Llobregat which supplies most of Barcelona’s drinking water. Freshwater is largely used for agricultural purposes which account for 68.17 percent in 2012, urban consumption 14.21 percent in 2012, and industrial purposes by 17.6 percent in 2012 (Ritchie and Roser). Spain has proper sanitation due to easy accessibility of water and sanitation made possible by different water organizations in the county as well as the government including the Spanish Cooperation with about 99.9 percent of the population having access (Ritchie and Roser). Agricultural water usage per annum was 25.47 billion m3 in 2010 (Ritchie and Roser). 

Spain exports 17km3 annually and imports about 27km3 per year (Aldaya 18). Hiero et al. indicate that Spain has already lost 20 percent of its fresh water in some regions whereas other have lost by up to 40 percent with the numbers likely to rise up to 25 percent by 2010. Water scarcity in the country explains its virtual water export inform of livestock and import in the form of cereals (Aldaya 19). Some measures employed in Spain to reduce water problems include the Emergency Plan for the Modernization of Irrigation 2006/8 which aim at minimizing water usage in agriculture. Spain has water limitation to users which often result in informal consumption and consequently uneven distribution and use. Private water managements supply most water in the region who ensure water purification using chlorine and ensuring water is safe for drinking. Nonetheless, these organizations are responsible for increased water depletion due to agricultural demands. Increased soil pollution results in chemicals getting into water sources consequently harming the ecosystem. 
Spain’s water is healthy with 99.9 percent accessibility and safe for consumption. Climate change and poor water management are among the main causes of water insecurity in the state. Technology continues to improve various areas in life and hence investing in better techs that ensure efficient water management and use can help reduce avoidable scarcity. 

Works Cited: Adrada, Carmen. “Spain-Energy.”, 2018. Accessed November 4, 2018, from, Maite et al. “Sustainable Water Management.” Water Footprint, 2008. Accessed November 4, 2018, from 16. “In-depth analysis of the Spanish energy sector.” Energia16, N.d. Accessed November 4, 2018, from Waste. “Food Waste: An Analysis of the Retail Sector.” N.d. Accessed November 4, 2018 from, Ibon et al. “The Price of Energy Efficiency in the Spanish Car Market.” Enforenergy, 2013. Accessed November 4, 20,18 from, Lola et al. “Spain Faces Threat of Water Crisis.” Eurocrativ, 2015. Accessed November 4, 2018 from, Elena et al. “The Concept of Water and Food Security in Spain.” Research Gate, 2013. Accessed November 4, 2018, from, Gregorio. “Evaluation of food consumption and dietary patterns in Spain by the Food Consumption Survey: Updated information.” Research Gate, 2010. Accessed November 4, 2018, from Release. “Household Budget Survey Year 2014.” Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, 2015.  Accessed November 4, 2018, from, Hannah, and Roser, Max. “Water Access, Resources, and Sanitation.”  Our World in Data, 2018. Accessed November 4, 2018, from

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