Desertification is most often considered to be a problem afflicting poor nations. But large areas of developed nations such as the USA, Australia and Spain are also affected on a huge scale.

In this film we go to Spain, where half the country is defined as ‘arid’ or ‘semi-arid’. In these dry regions almost a third of the land is defined as either severely or moderately desertified. The main problem is the escalating demand for water: 50% of the supply in a town such as Malaga is used by tourists who come to the country in millions every summer expecting pools, daily showers and golf courses.

There are now more than half a million illegal bore holes watering semi-arid areas to provide fruit crops to supermarkets in Northern Europe. It is a crisis that won’t go away.

Desperate for a solution, the Spanish government is considering diverting rivers from the north of the country or building expensive desalination plants. Both will have destructive consequences for the environment. The answer, everyone knows, is being frugal with water, but how is this possible when Spain’s spectacular economic growth of two decades has been based on profligate use?