The Balearic government plans to set up a water bank for agricultural use, under which farmers who do not use their wells can cede their rights to new farmers. The decree regulating the new initiative is being drawn up by the ministries of the environment and agriculture and fisheries, and will then be presented to the farming sector before it goes to parliament for final approval. Antoni Rodríguez, the director general of water resources, said that the main objective was that farmers who do not need the water cede their rights to the bank which will in turn cede it to new farmers, depending on the type of crops they wish to grow, and for periods ranging from one to four years. He explained that the cession will not by “physical” in the sense that water can be extracted from a well different to the one which has been ceded, although it will be under the supervision of the ministry and a board set up to supervise the initiative. The water bank will be backed by the existing law on water which rules that a farmer loses the concession of a well if he does not use it for three years, but by ceding the rights, the farmer will not lose the concession. Rodríguez said yesterday that the idea of the bank was to help new farmers, who in this way will not have to drill new wells which would be detrimental to the water tables. This “exchange of water” will be controlled by the ministry of agriculture, while the environment ministry will keep a record of the amounts, so that the limits for extractions are not passed. The Hydrology Plan of the Balearics, approved on May 21 last year, defines the quantity of water extracted from each aquifer and the excess water in each. However, between the time the plan was first drawn up in 1996 and the time it came into force, licences to extract water over and above the excess in reserve were granted, and so no more permits for wells for farming will be issued.

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