Is tap water healthy?

Although health authorities insist that tap water is completely safe, many people warn that there is a lack of thorough controls. Heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals and microplastics pose a risk to our health.

 

In December 2020, the European Parliament adopted the Drinking Water Directive to improve the quality of tap water and reduce the consumption of bottled water. This directive provided for the imposition of stricter limits for certain contaminants, such as lead. It also envisaged the establishment of a list of substances or compounds of concern to the public and the scientific community for monitoring. 

However, the truth is that, almost a year and a half later, the European Commission has still not drawn up this list, which should include pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors and microplastics that can damage our health.

It is still difficult to find colourless, odourless and tasteless tap water. In most cases, tap water contains many substances, from the chlorine used to make it drinkable, which can give the water a characteristic bad taste, to more harmful substances such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, microplastics, bacteria and viruses.

Routine controls only check the levels of those pollutants that are already legislated, but they are a small part. For example, the Outbiotics project, which is being developed in Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, the Basque Country and the south of France, has found antibiotics such as amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, azithromycin, sulfadiazine, sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim in pre-drinking natural waters.

Studies such as the one published in the prestigious journal ‘Environmental Health’ make clear the need to reduce perfluoroalkyl substances in tap water worldwide to improve our health, as they are considered endocrine disruptors.

 

Persistent heavy metals

Industrial and mining activity releases toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and chromium, which can reach aquifers and rivers, contaminating soil and accumulating in plants and organic tissues. Exposure to these elements is linked to health problems such as various types of cancer, kidney damage and developmental delays.

Lead can also infiltrate drinking water through corrosion of service pipes, chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that the maximum level of this heavy metal in drinking water should be zero, “because lead is a toxic metal that can harm human health, even at low exposure levels” and can “bioaccumulate in the body over time”.

Children are particularly vulnerable to lead, as they absorb it more easily than adults and its renal elimination is less effective. Lead can affect their brain development, reduce their ability to concentrate and affect their academic performance. 

 

The invasion of microplastics

A study conducted by the news organisation Orb Media in collaboration with researchers from the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota shows that microplastics have been finding their way into tap water around the world for years.

Already, 83% of drinking water samples collected in five continents over the past decade contained microplastics. The United States had the highest contamination rate and, although Europe’s has the lowest, it had still very high (72%). The average number of plastic fibres found in every 500 ml of water ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe.

 

Uncontrolled pesticides

A recent report by Ecologistas en Acción denounces the poor control of chemical substances suspected of contaminating drinking water. This is the case with many pesticides, herbicides and biocides.

Sulphur, which is the most widely used in the countryside, has not been tested for in any of the water analyses carried out by Spanish municipalities in recent years. The same applies to substances as common in agriculture and livestock farming such as metam sodium (only one search was recorded in 2019), copper oxychloride, paradine oil, copper hydroxide and propamocarb.

In addition, the report criticises the lack of a legal obligation to carry out complete analyses in small populations and their unreliability due to the absence of quantified limits and the lack of accreditation of the contracted laboratories. This organisation has noted the absence of complete controls even in municipalities declared by the autonomous communities themselves as vulnerable to nitrates.

 

If you want to discover how to drink the best water, save money and help the planet, go to 11Onze Essentials.

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In the face of the climate emergency, the economy is tending to decarbonise at a rapid pace. Against a backdrop of rising taxes on polluting industries, a study shows that increasing the share of gold in a diversified investment portfolio reduces its overall carbon footprint without affecting returns.

 

EU data confirm that Europe experienced its warmest summer ever in 2022 and that global temperatures over the past eight years have been the highest since records began. The pace of global warming urges a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is the only way to avoid the catastrophic consequences associated with climate change.

Given this reality, the process of decarbonising the economy is such an urgent priority that it is conditioning a large part of current political, business and investment decisions. In this regard, a report by the consultancy Urgentem concludes that the inclusion of gold in a diversified investment portfolio “can have a positive impact on portfolio performance from a climate transition perspective”, as it reduces the overall carbon footprint of the portfolio without impacting returns. 

  

More gold, fewer emissions

The study analysed how diversified investment portfolios with different asset mixes would have performed over five years to determine how the inclusion of gold impacts the risk-return profile and the overall carbon footprint

Their conclusion is that, for example, in a portfolio with 70% equities and 30% bonds, devoting 10% of that portfolio to gold would reduce emissions by 7% while increasing the percentage of gold to 20% would reduce emissions by 17%. Furthermore, there are clear indications that the inclusion of gold in the portfolio improves the risk-return profile.

Although none of the asset mixes analysed would achieve the zero emissions target by 2050, the ones that would come closest would be those that include a higher percentage dedicated to gold. In fact, the only ones that manage to reduce emissions are those that devote at least 20% of their investment to gold.

In terms of the contribution of investment portfolios to the projected global temperature rise up to 2100, gold would also play a very positive role in mitigating its climate impact. The study estimates that devoting half of the portfolio to gold would result in a 40% reduction (more than 1 °C) in the warming generated by that portfolio. A portfolio with 70% equities and 30% bonds would generate an increase of 2.96 °C, while a portfolio with 45% equities, 5% bonds and 50% gold would only increase it by 1.76 °C.

 

What if emissions’ taxes were raised?

One of the main policy tools to curb climate change and accelerate the transition to an emission-free economy is the taxation of greenhouse gas emissions. In this respect, analysis of carbon dioxide prices shows that a higher proportion of gold will help reduce the market risk for a portfolio. The more stringent emission reduction policies become, the more desirable it will be to increase the share of gold in the portfolio.

The authors of the study admit that the limited time frame (five years) of the data initially collected and the relative outperformance of gold over this period may have biased expectations of gold returns, but they caution that longer-term analysis also confirms the favourable effect of gold inclusion on the return profile of the portfolio, albeit to a lesser extent. 

Moreover, the report’s authors assume that an investor inherits a substantial proportion of the carbon footprint associated with gold mining and production. Their forward-looking analysis, therefore, allows them to assess how much portfolios would be affected by the potential decarbonisation of this precious metal.

If you want to discover the best option to protect your savings, enter Preciosos 11Onze. We will help you buy at the best price the safe-haven asset par excellence: physical gold.

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Plastic waste is already forming huge islands in the sea and has even reached the depths of the ocean. This dumping is an ecological tragedy that some initiatives are trying to mitigate. The health of our seas and of humanity itself is at stake.

 

The UN estimates that by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic than fish. Every year, ten million tonnes of plastic waste of all kinds, such as bottled water packaging, end up in the sea.

This has led to the formation of large “islands” of plastic in the water. To get an idea of the scale of the problem, suffice it to say that the largest of these islands is located in the Pacific and is three times the size of France.

The consequences are dramatic for the planet because many marine animals ingest this plastic and more than a million die each year from it.

Microplastics, which are smaller than 5 millimetres in size, can even enter our bodies through the fish we eat. The consequences range from oxidative stress in our cells to DNA damage.

 

Three successful initiatives

Civil society is therefore coming up with more and more initiatives to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans, damaging marine life, contributing to climate change, and polluting an essential resource such as water.

One example is the Water Heroes FC programme, promoted by Xylem and Manchester City. This project, in which Pep Guardiola participates, seeks to raise public awareness of water issues and promotes actions to mitigate them. One of its initiatives, “Plogging with Pep”, encourages the public to pick up litter while walking, running, or doing any other outdoor sport.

 

 

Another success story is the Surfrider Foundation Europe’s Ocean Initiatives. With 25 years of history, this volunteer programme mobilises 40,000 participants in 40 countries every year, who organise themselves to remove litter from beaches and waterways.

A third example is the Ocean Cleanup project, founded a decade ago by a young man in his early 20s. This involves floating structures that take advantage of currents to collect rubbish from rivers and oceans. Its ambitious goal is to eliminate 90 percent of floating plastic by 2040.

These are three examples of how we can help contain marine litter and mitigate ocean pollution. It should not be forgotten that they account for 97 percent of the planet’s water.

 

If you want to discover how to drink the best water, save money and help the planet, go to 11Onze Essentials.

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Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity and halting global warming is essential to ensure our survival. The transition to cleaner and renewable energy sources is a key factor in achieving this. But to what extent is it feasible?

 

The World Economic Forum’s latest Global Risks Report 2024 finds that extreme weather events, biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and natural resource scarcity pose the greatest risk to humanity over the next decade.

The main cause is the burning of fossil fuels, which has increased as the human population has grown. Their combustion generates greenhouse gases that trap the sun’s rays in the earth’s atmosphere, raising the average surface temperature of the planet.

 

No time to stop global warming

Greenhouse gas emissions reached record highs in the past decade. Although their rate of growth has slowed, the report “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change” warns that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C will only be possible if there is an immediate and deep reduction in emissions.

To achieve this, emissions would have to be cut by almost half by 2030 and be zero by mid-century. At the COP28 summit in Dubai last December, it was agreed to triple the use of renewable energy in the next five years.

Yet, the world still consumes over 35 billion barrels of oil yearly. This dependence on fossil fuels is unsustainable, both from a production and environmental point of view. Experts estimate that 40% of the world’s oil reserves have already been exhausted and that, at the current rate, there are only about 50 years left.

 

Can the world run on renewable energy alone?

Renewable energy is any type of energy that comes from a source that does not run out over time. There are many renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind or geothermal energy, and they are important because, unlike hydrocarbons, they are infinite and produce almost no polluting emissions.

The main problem with renewable energies is the instability of their production and storage so that they can be easily distributed. In other words, they are limited in terms of their availability and location, which makes them unprofitable. However, the cost could be reduced by developing more advanced technologies to capture energy and transport it more efficiently.

In this context, a study by IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, shows that a 100% renewable energy model is possible and points the way towards a 45% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050.

IRENA’s analysis concludes that we already have the technologies that can lead us to a decarbonised energy system, with solutions that can be deployed rapidly and at scale. The study shows that more than 90% of the solutions that make the 2050 goal possible involve renewables through direct supply, electrification, energy efficiency, green hydrogen and bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage.

The Agency argues that the increase in electricity prices on the wholesale market has been caused by the high price of gas from which electricity is produced because, right now, renewables do not provide the stability needed to guarantee electricity supply. Therefore, the sooner we achieve a decarbonised economy, the sooner we will leave behind this dependence and the extreme price variations associated with it.

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In addition to gold’s usefulness in the financial, ornamental and technological fields, it can also contribute to the sustainability of the planet. Research has found that a nanoparticle catalyst of this precious metal can convert waste materials, such as biomass and polyester, into useful organic silicon compounds. 

 

Plastic waste is a problem for humanity. That is why many resources are being invested in the search for ways to recycle them and give them a new useful life. Several lines of research aim to convert these waste materials into useful compounds and products in an efficient way.

One of them, involving scientists at Tokyo Metropolitan University, has found that gold nanoparticles supported on a zirconium oxide support can convert waste materials, such as biomass and polyester, into organosilane compounds, which are valuable chemicals with a wide range of applications. The results of their study were recently published in the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The new protocol takes advantage of the combination of gold nanoparticles with a zirconium oxide support, whose characteristics allow it to react both as a base and as an acid. This makes it possible to recycle the waste under less demanding conditions and in a more environmentally friendly way than with the systems investigated so far.

New life for plastic waste

The research team has been working for some time on converting plastic and biomass into organosilanes, which are organic molecules with a silicon atom attached to carbon used in high-quality coatings and in the production of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. 

The problem until now was that the addition of the silicon atom involved the use of air- and moisture-sensitive reagents that require high temperatures and extremely acidic or basic conditions. As a result, the conversion process was not at all environmentally efficient.

A key step

The big finding is that the new gold nanoparticle catalyst causes ether and ester groups, both of which are abundant in plastics such as polyester and biomass compounds such as cellulose, to react with the disilane to form useful organosilanes. All that is needed is gentle heating in solution

The researchers have identified that the key to the effectiveness of this conversion lies in the combination of the gold nanoparticles and the amphoteric nature of the zirconium oxide support, i.e. its ability to act interchangeably as a base and an acid.

Double advantage

Not only does this system allow polyesters to be decomposed under much less demanding conditions than those used so far. More importantly, the reaction products are valuable compounds ready for use. 

The research team hopes that this new way of producing organosilanes will lead to a carbon-neutral future by allowing plastic waste to be recycled efficiently and preventing thousands of tonnes of plastic waste from burning in incineration plants.

 

If you want to discover the best option to protect your savings, enter Preciosos 11Onze. We will help you buy at the best price the safe-haven asset par excellence: physical gold.

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La “mineria urbana”, que consisteix a recuperar i reaprofitar els metalls presents en vehicles, motors, electrodomèstics, bateries i dispositius electrònics, podria cobrir totes les nostres necessitats de metalls com l’or o el coure, sense necessitat d’obrir noves mines. Molts immigrants irregulars, uns 50.000 només a Barcelona, sobreviuen gràcies a aquesta activitat en condicions precàries.

 

L’elevada demanda d’alguns metalls està provocant l’obertura de noves mines, que són poc sostenibles des d’un punt de vista mediambiental. De fet, la mineria tradicional genera cada any a la Unió Europea 150.000 milions de tones de runam i 12.000 milions de tones de llots. Una alternativa seria potenciar la mineria urbana. Es calcula que, a més de minimitzar la generació de residus, la mesura permetria reduir un 76% la contaminació dels aqüífers i un 40% el consum d’aigua.

Malgrat l’augment de la demanda previst per a les pròximes dècades, un informe d’Ecologistes en Acció adverteix que la mineria urbana bastaria per a cobrir el 100% de les necessitats de metalls com l’or o el coure, i més de la meitat de les de neodimi i níquel. En el cas del cobalt i el liti, la demanda dels quals està creixent exponencialment, la recuperació serviria per a cobrir el 8,3% i el 2,7%, respectivament. No obstant això, gran part d’aquests metalls acaben desaprofitats en abocadors.

 

Ni pagats ni reconeguts

Tot i que l’or es troba 100 vegades més concentrat en un telèfon mòbil que en les mines de major llei, la recuperació de metalls com aquest es veu frenada per motius econòmics: amb la legislació actual, surt més a compte extreure’ls de les mines que recuperar-los dels aparells rebutjats. I això que part del procés sol fer-se de manera informal.

Només a Barcelona pot haver-hi més de 50.000 persones que cada dia realitzen llargues jornades recollint peces metàl·liques, com explica Federico Demaria, professor d’Economia ecològica i Ecologia política de la Universitat de Barcelona. En molts casos són subsaharians sense papers que no poden regularitzar la seva situació. De fet, l’1 de març se celebra el Dia Mundial del Reciclador pel servei que presten aquest tipus de persones al medi ambient i a la societat de manera precària. Sense ells, gran part de la ferralla acabaria en abocadors.

A diferència d’algunes empreses privades que cobren de l’Administració per recollir, transportar i reciclar aquests materials, aquests recicladors informals contribueixen a l’economia circular sense cap mena d’ajuda. Es limiten a recollir el material metàl·lic de pisos i locals en obres, o el que troben al carrer, per a vendre’l a petites deixalleries legalitzades. Al seu torn, aquestes el canalitzen cap a la indústria recicladora establerta, que mou milers de milions d’euros.

 

Una vida precària

Un estudi del Gremi de Recuperació de Catalunya calcula que del més de mig milió de tones de residus metàl·lics que es van recuperar a Catalunya l’any 2013, almenys una cinquena part l’havien recollit els recicladors informals.

Fa uns anys l’Ajuntament de Barcelona va impulsar la creació d’Alencop, una cooperativa pionera que va regularitzar la situació d’una trentena d’aquests recicladors informals. Tot i que aquesta iniciativa va haver de baixar la persiana arran de la pandèmia, part de la seva plantilla es va integrar en una empresa privada sense ànim de lucre anomenada Andròmines.

Els seus treballadors es poden considerar uns privilegiats dins d’un col·lectiu que malviu pels carrers de la Ciutat Comtal. I la situació podria empitjorar per a molts d’ells per la seva falta de visibilitat. Cal no oblidar que existeixen grans interessos econòmics entorn de la indústria del reciclatge. Les empreses de gestió de residus, la majoria privades i amb plantilles subrogades, poden moure fitxa per a que el model de recollida s’emmotlli encara més als seus interessos i empenyi una mica més cap als marges als recicladors informals.

 

Si vols descobrir la millor opció per protegir els teus estalvis, entra a Preciosos 11Onze. T’ajudarem a comprar al millor preu el valor refugi per excel·lència: l’or físic.

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Is it possible to stop global warming? For nearly a decade, Project Drawdown has insisted that this is not a utopia if the right measures are taken to stop the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

 

With greenhouse gas emissions reaching record highs in the past decade, the pace of global warming has intensified. Temperatures are rising at a rate of almost 0.2 °C per decade. Worse still, it could rise by a further 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052, according to a UN report.

In this context, the publication in 2017 of the book ‘Drawdown’ generated a huge media echo. With nearly a hundred proposals, it was the most comprehensive plan to reverse global warming to date. The title referred to that desired future moment when the levels of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere stop rising and begin a gradual decline that avoids catastrophic consequences. 

The book’s editorial team continued to advance their proposals to reach that “crucial point for life on Earth; a point we must reach as quickly, safely and equitably as possible”, as detailed on their website. In 2020, they published “The Drawdown Report”, which updates their proposals and sets out a series of fundamental reflections on climate balance.

 

A reference report

Its solutions place particular emphasis on the areas of energy, industry, food, transport and construction, which account for 90% of greenhouse gas emissions. The proposals, which are intended to serve as a starting point for legislators, institutions and individuals, are based on ten key ideas that should guide humanity’s efforts to avert environmental disaster. 

  1. It is possible to reach the drawdown point by mid-century. Yes, despite the difficulties, it is possible to halt emissions’ growth, but this requires maximising the climate solutions available today. As the report warns, “available is better than new, and society is ready to start such a transformation today”. 
  2. A comprehensive system of solutions is needed. There is no single, miracle cure for a problem as complex as the climate crisis. Many of the solutions can be combined and made to feedback on each other for the most significant possible impact. For example, efficient buildings make renewable electricity generation more viable. 
  3. Solutions rarely have only one climate impact. Many of them can generate employment, improve resilience to climate impacts such as storms and droughts, and provide other environmental benefits such as the preservation of water resources. 
  4. The savings from climate solutions significantly outweigh the costs. Arguments about the lack of economic viability of climate action are false. The report estimates that net operational savings are four to five times the net implementation costs. And if we take into account the financial value of the associated benefits, such as savings in health services through reduced pollution, and avoided climate damage, such as reduced agricultural losses, the economic case is even stronger.
  5. It is essential to promote solutions that reduce or replace the use of fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels for electricity, transport and heating generates two-thirds of the world’s heat-trapping gas emissions. Hence, the importance of this section. Approximately 30% of the solutions proposed in the report calls for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels through increased efficiency, and almost another 30% propose alternatives. These measures, which range from boosting solar and wind energy to retrofitting buildings, can provide almost two-thirds of the emission reductions needed to reach the drawdown point. 
  6. Nature’s carbon sinks must be encouraged. If we want to prevent the water in a bathtub from overflowing, we can turn off the tap, but we can also remove the stopper so that the liquid goes down the drain. A similar thing happens with carbon in nature. Human activities can enhance natural carbon sinks, and many ecosystem-based or agriculture-related climate solutions have the dual benefit of reducing emissions and sequestering carbon. 
  7. More attention should be paid to some of the most impactful climate solutions. The report warns that beyond onshore wind turbines and industrial-scale photovoltaic plants, progress is needed in areas such as reducing food waste and improving the disposal of chemical refrigerants, which are potent greenhouse gases. 
  8. Accelerators are needed to drive solutions at the scale, speed and scope required. Some accelerators, such as policy change and capital displacement, are closer to home and have more direct impacts. Others, such as cultural change and political empowerment, are more distant and indirect in their effects. 
  9. Changes must be made at all levels, from the individual to the global. The climate crisis requires systemic and structural changes in our society. Interventions are needed at the individual, community, organisational, regional, national and global levels to maximise benefits and achieve transformation. 
  10. Much commitment, collaboration and ingenuity will be needed to reverse the current situation. The report warns that “the path we are on is far more than risky, and it is easy to feel paralysed by that danger”. However, it also stresses that change is possible: “together we can build a bridge from where we are now to the world we want” for generations to come.

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How does livestock management affect the environment? Two livestock associations in Segrià (Lleida) have turned the problem of slurry into a solution. They have created a pioneering composting plant in the country. We talk about it in a new episode of People, with Miquel Serra, one of the promoters of the project.

 

With no more than 10,000 inhabitants, Alcarràs is the municipality in Europe with the highest density of farms per square kilometre. In total, it has 45,000 steers, 35,000 pig mothers, and some 250,000 fattening cattle. That is why, for the neighbours, the management of the nitrogen produced by the slurry was of the utmost importance to comply with European environmental standards. This is how the composting plant project was born, promoted by the two large livestock organisations in the municipality, to convert the slurry into fertiliser.

And they did it collectively, as Serra recalls. The project cost them 1.5 million euros. “Cattle manure is better managed. And on pig farms, where we have solid and liquid manure separators, we were interested in being able to manage solid manure. The composting plant had to allow us to manage both manures separately, because cattle manure is classified as organic production, and pig manure is not, although it can be used for conventional agriculture,” explains Serra, who is a member of the driving force behind Alcarràs Bioproductors.

An exceptional case

And why aren’t there more composting plants like the one in Alcarràs all over the country? “Until now, all composting plants have been set up by people who wanted to do business. And one way was to manage other by-products that are difficult to treat and for which the businesses paid the composting plants. This is what made them viable”, explains Serra.

On the other hand, in Alcarràs they wanted a manure and slurry composting, without looking for profitability first, but rather the environmental benefit and the continuity of their farms, and this makes it a unique case in Spain. “We have to think that our business is to produce meat”, argues the promoter, who explains that, nevertheless, there are already three multinationals that have shown interest in buying the compost they will produce. “In the end, we are convinced that we will manage to make it viable”, he acknowledges.

As for financing, they have not yet considered European funds, because the initiative was born before, but Serra explains that they feel very supported by the Department of Agriculture and the Diputació de Lleida. “Through the BioHub Km 0 project, designed to reactivate the economy of the area, we have been able to manage a small grant that allows us to be more ambitious,” explains Serra. In fact, the composting plant is just the first step towards a larger circular and sustainable economy project. The idea is to generate an alternative that allows us to conserve and value the talent of the territory. Turning slurry into compost may be the ultimate sustainable solution, but more uses are still being investigated. For example, cellulose can be extracted from manure and used to make fabrics. Perhaps the future of sustainable fashion will be to wear clothes made out of manure.

 

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The demands of the peasants and farmers, which are part of a European-wide unrest, present the country with a colossal challenge. The one to decide if Catalonia should be food sovereign or if it should renounce its own land. In 11Onze we have it clear: you don’t play with food.

 

Everyone knows that the primary sector is essential, but it seems that we sometimes forget it. That’s why Catalan farmers, like Europeans, are on a war footing. The demands are simple and could be summed up in one: have some respect for a sector that puts the plate on the table for Catalonia of the 8 million.

Excessive bureaucracy, economic suffocation and regulatory pressure are the battle horses of some farmers who see that the poor conditions in their sector discourage the possible generational change. Nowadays, the peasant is a romantic with a tractor. People who love the land and work for it even if they don’t earn a living. Complaints of having to sell below the cost of production are endemic, and for some time now the lack of protection of farmers against intermediaries, large chains and the importation of products from other countries, which very often do not meet the very demanding regulations that are asked of European farmers and ranchers.

 

The European greyness

Catalan food sovereignty is in question, in part, due to the European regulatory scourge. The EU, governed from the gray Brussels, pushes its convoluted regulations down. The bureaucratic labyrinth launches itself towards the immediately lower rung of the chain and goes down through the administrations until it falls on its face in front of peasants unable to manage this hellish list. The wisest people in the world, the ones who know how to create food, are asked to also be office workers and collect data and fill in endless forms so that they go up the chain again and satisfy the paperwork thirst of a Brussels bureaucrat.

In December 2022, the farmer and Junts deputy, Salvador Vergés, read in Parliament a list of the measures required of farmers. The clip has gone viral these days as a result of the protests and, if it weren’t for the fact that it deals with such a serious subject, it would make me laugh.

Drought and priorities

To all the usual problems of the peasantry, this year also added the drought that the whole country is experiencing. The farmers, by decision of the Catalan government, were among the first to receive the blows of the cuts in water consumption. While they had to attend, amazed, a summer tourism campaign without limitations. And they must continue to be surprised, even, seeing the greenery of the golf courses, observing the huge water leaks declared by the ACA and realizing that the water bottling companies are still extracting water from the rivers. Supermarkets are full of plastic bottles filled with water, even though producing plastic bottles pollutes and forces extra water consumption. All to market an essential good that others are denied. Is it normal, then, that the peasants wonder how long the joke will last?

Desolate sovereignty

All this leaves a discouraging picture: that of a country unable to establish and manage its basic priorities. If we are not able to guarantee food production and water, what do we aspire to be? For this reason, the farmers redouble their pressure, although they were already received by the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès. The president often uploads videos on his networks where he is seen cooking recipes. It’s a relaxed way to show off in front of the public, but where do the eggs come from that the Most Honourable uses to make the cake? Where do flour, butter, milk, meat, apples, or artichokes come from? The answer of an urban politician would be simple: from the supermarket.

At a time when it seems that Europe has turned its back on the primary sector to obsess over the war economy, looking at Russia, since 11Onze we want to put ourselves on the side of the peasantry, remembering, once again, the risk of a food crisis that we face.

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Plogui, nevi o faci sol, el subministrament de l’aigua que consumeixen més del 80% dels catalans segueix en mans d’empreses totalment o parcialment privades. Malgrat els esforços per recuperar la gestió pública d’aquest servei, les multinacionals del sector es resisteixen a perdre un negoci milionari.

 

A través de l’empresa pública ONAIGUA, el consell comarcal d’Osona va assumir l’abril de l’any passat la gestió del subministrament d’aigua en aquesta comarca, pel que dona servei a 11.400 punts de consum i arriba a més de 25.000 habitants. Es va convertir en el primer consell comarcal a prendre una mesura d’aquest calat.

Podríem dir que es tracta d’una anomalia del mercat, ja que el subministrament de l’aigua a Catalunya està majoritàriament en mans privades. Un reduït nombre d’empreses privades administren i es lucren d’aquest bé preuat al nostre país gràcies a concessions moltes vegades qüestionades. I això que en el món la gestió pública assorteix al 90% de la població i Nacions Unides reconeix l’aigua com un dret humà.

Segons les dades de la plataforma Aigua és vida, més del 80% dels catalans obtenen l’aigua a través d’un servei totalment o parcialment privatitzat, mentre que el que el servei públic no arriba ni al 20% de la població. Aquest desequilibri s’explica pel domini del model privat en els municipis amb un major volum de població, que són els més rendibles.

 

Pressió per a municipalitzar un servei bàsic

Davant aquesta realitat, existeix una creixent pressió per recuperar la gestió pública d’aquest servei. L’Associació de Municipis i Entitats per l’Aigua Pública (AMAP) ja compta amb 68 membres i representa al 47% de la població de Catalunya. Recentment, publicava un informe amb propostes de reformes legislatives per canviar aquesta situació.

Sis municipis, l’Associació de micropobles de Catalunya i una nova empresa pública es van sumar a aquesta entitat l’any 2022. Dels nous municipis, només Mieres (la Garrotxa), Collbató (Baix Llobregat) i Torroella de Montgrí (Baix Empordà) gestionen directament l’aigua. Castelló d’Empúries està en procés de municipalitzar el servei, mentre que Manlleu i Sitges encara estan lligades a concessions per més d’una dècada amb Sorea i Agbar. Quant a l’Associació de micropobles de Catalunya, cal tenir en compte que el 70% dels municipis de menys de mil habitants, que són els menys rendibles, ja gestionen directament el subministrament d’aigua.

 

Gairebé un monopoli

Tot i que les empreses privades que gestionen l’aigua a Catalunya es presenten amb diferents noms segons el municipi, la majoria pertanyen al grup Agbar, que està valorat en uns 3.000 milions d’euros.

Aquest grup controla totalment l’empresa Sorea i posseeix gairebé el 80% de la Companyia d’Aigües de Sabadell (CASSA), el 68% d’Aigües de Rigat (Igualada) i el 49% de l’Empresa Municipal Aigües de Tarragona (Ematsa). A més, té al voltant del 35% de Mina Pública de Terrassa i el 31% de Girona SA.

Els seus beneficis no sols provenen de la venda d’aigua, que l’any passat pretenia encarir un 7,4% a Barcelona. També de la subcontractació de serveis a les seves filials. Això permet que a la Ciutat Comtal, per exemple, el cost dels comptadors d’aigua per a l’usuari final acabi més que triplicant el cost original. Això suposa uns 17 milions d’euros de benefici addicional a l’any.

 

Estratègia de judicialització

Davant un negoci d’aquesta grandària no resulta estrany que Agbar porti als tribunals qualsevol iniciativa encaminada a recuperar la gestió pública del subministrament d’aigua, com detalla el portal ctxt. Només a Barcelona, aquesta multinacional i les seves entitats afins han presentat una quarantena d’accions judicials.

La seva estratègia d’empantanar judicialment aquests processos per dilatar-los o diluir-los ha fet que fins i tot posés un contenciós contra un simple conveni entre l’Ajuntament de Barcelona i l’Àrea Metropolitana per a l’intercanvi d’informació entre institucions.

Un dels casos més sonats té a veure amb la consulta que l’Ajuntament de Barcelona volia impulsar per conèixer l’opinió de la ciutadania sobre una eventual gestió pública de l’aigua. Diverses entitats, entre les quals es troba Agbar, van interposar recursos. Finalment, el Tribunal Superior de Justícia de Catalunya (TSJC) va suspendre el reglament de participació ciutadana en la part relativa a les consultes i va impedir que la iniciativa tirés endavant.

El cas que afecta un major nombre de municipis és el que Agbar va impulsar contra diversos consistoris de l’Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona. Inicialment, una sentència del TSJC en 2016 va anul·lar la concessió a Aigües de Barcelona del subministrament d’aigua en diversos municipis del cinturó metropolità, amb la qual l’empresa s’assegurava el servei a gairebé tres milions d’habitants durant 35 anys i uns ingressos de 3.500 milions d’euros. El tribunal veia “motius d’anul·lació per vicis en el procés de contractació” quan es va constituir l’empresa mixta en la qual participava Agbar. Tot i això, el Tribunal Suprem va revocar aquesta sentència l’any 2019 en considerar que el procediment emprat per l’Administració per adjudicar el servei sense concurs públic estava avalat per la Llei de contractes del sector públic.

 

Pràctiques tèrboles

Com denunciava Eloi Badia, regidor d’Emergència Climàtica i Transició Ecològica de l’Ajuntament de Barcelona, les tèrboles pràctiques d’Agbar per aconseguir concessions l’han dut a ser imputat en tres macrocauses judicials (Pokémon, Púnica i Petrum), a més de ser expulsat en 2017 de la gestió de l’aigua a Girona després de demostrar-se la seva vinculació amb la trama del 3%.

Els informes d’aquesta última causa constataven que, durant més de dues dècades, els gironins van pagar més d’1 milió d’euros de sobrecost pel servei d’aigua. A més, l’Agència Tributària advertia que els directius de l’empresa havien carregat despeses personals a la societat i va concloure que Girona SA havia cobrat centenars de milers d’euros per serveis no prestats.

Com expliquem en l’article “Els serveis públics, cada vegada més privatitzats”, la privatització de serveis essencials avança de manera implacable a Europa des dels anys vuitanta. I això està tenint un preu inqüestionable per al conjunt de la ciutadania. L’agent d’11Onze Jordi Coll apunta que aquest procés ha suposat sotmetre la prestació d’aquests serveis “a la lògica de criteris de mercat i, per tant, dels beneficis privats”.

 

Si vols descobrir com beure la millor aigua, estalviar diners i ajudar al planeta, entra a Imprescindibles 11Onze.

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