PROTEST marches on Sunday filled the town of Amposta (Girona province) over ongoing plans by the Spanish government to reduce the flow of the Ebro river and siphone off it to provide water to other regions.
Another reason the separatists cite for wanting Catalunya to become an independent country, leeching water away from one of Europe's longest rivers could cause untold damage to its unique flora and fauna, which includes numerous endangered species of locally-native plants.
The Ebro delta, which runs into the Mediterranean in Catalunya, is a protected nature reserve and the source of the river is in the northern coastal region of Cantabria.
At 930 kilometres in length if it was stretched out in a straight line, the Ebro crosses through nine of Spain's federal regions – or more than half the mainland.
As well as being a highly biodiverse wetland, its marshy terrain is perfect for growing rice and certain types of fruit and vegetables, and sediment from downriver gushing into the delta dilutes salty sea water and prevent coastal erosion.
But the Spanish government has built so many dams, hydraulic systems and housing estates on the banks of the Ebro that the river sediment has been severely curtailed – only about 10% gets through to the delta.
Dry weather throughout Spain, with severe floods less common – meaning the river does not reach its limits and force sediment down through the water course to the delta – have also aggravated the issue.
And the national government's management plan for the Ebro basin means siphoning out too much water to preserve the natural wetlands in optimum conditions, says a local protest group Plataforma en Defensa de l'Ebre ('Ebro Defence Association', or PDE).
European Union law saws authorities cannot touch the water unless and until enough is guaranteed to keep the river preserved – only water in excess of this can then be used for other purposes.
The PDE complains Spain has apportioned the water first – making sure there is enough to keep controversial nuclear power stations such as those in Ascó and Garoña running, among other uses – and then the surplus will be left for keeping the river regenerated.
This is the opposite way around to how EU law dictates rivers should be managed.
Re-channelling the Ebro to 'feed' regions with drier climates, or where over-development had taken place and on-tap water could not be guaranteed, led to a huge uproar just over 10 years ago.
Over Christmas 2005, the Valencia region boycotted cava from Catalunya because the latter would not agree to the former being supplied by the Ebro.
Eventually, the plans were shelved when the EU put the brakes on.
The PDE says the Spanish government's hitherto unilateral decisions on what it planned to do with the river water, irrespective of how it affected the lush, green wetland, has become a political bone of contention as the pro-independence brigade says it is just another symptom of Spain riding roughshod over Catalunya.