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Spain hydro, irrigation reserves fall but above avg

Source: Reuters - Tue 10th Aug 2010

Spain has less water to generate electricity and irrigate crops than a week ago after dry weather, the latest official data showed in the gas- and grain-dependent country on Tuesday.

Spain's Met Office has forecast a hotter and drier summer than normal, but reservoir levels were recently at their highest since 1998 following a wet winter and spring.

Hydropower reservoirs contained enough water to produce 14,532 gigawatt-hours of electricity, a decline of 436 GWh from last week, the Ministry for the Environment and Rural Affairs said.

However, that was still 40.4 % above average and enough, by itself, to supply Spain's average electricity requirements for 20.6 days.

Hydropower generation has surged in recent months and cut back on output from gas-powered plants, which in turn has interrupted a fledgling recovery in gas consumption in Spain.

An increase in hydropower generation also tends to hold down wholesale electricity prices, which affects utilities including Iberdrola, Endesa, Gas Natural and Hidrocantabrico.

Spain has to import almost all the gas it burns - more than 40 billion cubic metres a year - mostly in the form of liquefied natural gas, of which it is the world's third-largest importer.


Rainfall recorded for the week to Aug. 8 was 3.8 millimetres, or 66.3 percent of average.

Reservoirs set aside for consumption, which includes agricultural use, were at 73.2 percent of capacity. That was below 74.6 percent a week ago, but above an average of 48.8 percent.

Irrigation is required in Spain to grow crops such as maize and reduce the country's hefty grain shortfall, of which it has to import upwards of 10 million tonnes a year from as far afield as Argentina and Ukraine.

Unlike their counterparts in Russia and other Black Sea producers, Spanish farmers are unconcerned about the current dry spell, saying it is not unusual in Spain and will not affect the wheat harvest, which is at least 90 percent complete.

Spanish farmers also irrigate rice, cotton and alfalfa, a key ingredient in animal feed which is also produced for export.

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