chapter  16
23 Pages

Water scarcity and agricultural growth in Spain

From curse to blessing?
WithIgnacio Cazcarro, Rosa Duarte, Miguel Martín-Retortillo, Vicente Pinilla, Ana Serrano

This chapter discusses how natural resource scarcity (aridity, in the case of Spanish agriculture) encouraged the process of frontier expansion defined by Barbier, meaning the exploitation of new, relatively abundant resources (water) for production purposes. Water for irrigated agriculture was obtained from both ground sources, identified as “vertically downward” sources (i.e. wells, which were mainly funded by private initiative), and “horizontally extensive” surface sources, such as dams and canals, primarily paid for by the public sector. Although the processes involved in obtaining water can be traced back over the centuries, it was really not until the twentieth century when they became truly important. The growth of agricultural production was deeply influenced by this process. The main result is the mismatch between areas of high current agricultural productivity, and better initial endowment of natural resources.