*AquaGib employees said to oppose cross border pipe supply of Spanish potable water
*Spanish connection can undermine number of AquaGib employees
*Who will profiteer from Spanish water supplied
*Connection with Spain will be used as a contingency measure only
*Contingency likely to revert to permanent Spanish water supply
*Reliance undermines self-sufficiency desalination plants
*Gibraltar military base may be affected
*AquaGib two-thirds of Northumbrian Water Group and one third to Gibraltar Government
*Employee and staff good relations encouraged under AquaGib’ s Mission Statement
AQUAGIB EMPLOYEE CONCERNS
Noises coming from AquaGib employees indicate huge resistance to the plan to connect a waterpipe to the Spanish water supply system to deliver potable water to consumers in Gibraltar. The protest may escalate to the level of them refusing to undertake any works required to install the pipe connection across the Gibraltar-Spain border.
AquaGib workers have concerns about the consequent reliance on Spain for an essential commodity that is water due to historical political actions taken by it against Gibraltar, but their primary concern is not that. The main worry is the adverse effect such a supply would have on future employment prospects in the water supply sector in Gibraltar. Their primary concern is not for their present jobs.
SPANISH SUPPLIER REPRESENTED IN GIBRALTAR
The additional questions are who, if anyone, will represent the Spanish supplier in Gibraltar? Will it be AquaGib, or a private individual or contractor who has the ear of the relevant Spanish water supplier? Will such a pipe connection provide the desired resilience considering Andalucía’s own water shortages?
Those are questions that are of concern, and which could directly affect employment with AquaGib, some of which could allow for elements of profiteering. It should be noted that general government expenditure does not seem to have reduced by reason of past privatisations.
SPANISH WATER SUPPLY CONNECTION
The GSLP-Liberal Government announced a few days ago that the Strategic Coordinating Group had decided to explore the possibility of connecting a pipe so that Spain could supply Gibraltar with potable (that is drinking) water. The statement comes following the recent water supply disruption due to waterpipe damage resulting from the fire in the tunnel.
Minister for Public Utilities, Albert Isola, said:
“Work on all potential options began with the laying of the new pipe at the border being one such measure. I would like to reassure the community that the Government has no intention whatsoever of using this pipe as a permanent supply of potable water from Spain and its will only be used in the future as a contingency measure should an emergency event such as the one we have just experienced ever occur again,”
It is the same Minister as is today quoted in the Gibraltar Chronicle as Gibraltar needing self-sufficiency in the supply of electricity, or is he considering also connecting a ‘contingency’ electric cable with Spain? Consistency of policies would demand that ‘contingency’ measure in the field of electricity supply.
CONTINGENCY TURNING TO PERMANENT
History shows that where savings can be made this GSLP-Liberal Government will unceasingly hunt to make those savings. The cost of producing water in Gibraltar to make us self-sufficient in this essential commodity is one that must be afforded.
The possibility that having water supplied by Spain will lead to large savings will be a huge incentive to make permanent that which at first may be sold politically as a contingency measure.
Self-sufficiency in water supply is an expensive need that must be met. It requires huge investment in reverse-osmosis plant and machinery. It is an investment that must be made into the future.
The availability of a cheaper alternative is a disincentive over time to that investment being made. It facilitates a decision to make a saving when a cheaper alternative is available, and costs becomes a political and actual issue.
ONE-WAY STREET WITH POSSIBLE MILITARY CONNOTATIONS
It is a one-way street as the time and cost of reverting to our own supply will be extraordinary and so more difficult to justify politically. It will need a start again investment in plant and machinery if the connection to Spain results in decommissioning of our current water production facilities over time.
It is noteworthy that just as the GSLP-Liberals are exploring the possibility of that connection, the military, according to the new Commander British forces, are studying making themselves even more self-sufficient and less dependent on civilian supplies. Admittedly, the emphasis is at present on fuel supplies with no mention of water.
AquaGib is charged under contracts with the Government of Gibraltar to provide customers with potable water on a metered basis, to provide free salt water for use in flushing toilets, and it controls the operation and management of sewage pumping services.
It is two-thirds owned by the Northumbrian Water Group and one third owned by the Gibraltar Government. It strives “to realise our vision of being recognised as Gibraltar’s leading utility through the provision of efficient and sustainable water services.”
Its Mission Statement includes that it will “provide a mutually balanced employer-employee relationship”, and “develop our staff so that they are able to achieve their maximum potential to meet future needs of the business”. Those two statements will likely be put to the test as matters engaging connecting a pipe to Spain develop.
The 30 year concession is about to expire. The Chief Minister at the Budget announced that AquaGib would be nationalised. Hopefully that will not change the Mission Statement.