Services connections

The services connections checks section in our buying property guide gives much more detail on the type and availability of communal services in Galicia, so this page only summarises the main issues when building a new house or restoring an old one.

Water supply

Water supplies are essential for any home but also have implications for building permissions in Spain. Whilst Galicia is gradually introducing mains water (often of significantly lower quality than the private systems it replaces) to most rural areas substantial parts of it are still off-grid.

  • If there is no public mains water supply accessible from your plot you may well be unable to get permission for a new build.
  • Any houses, even if built with permissions, within the 100 metre coastal zone may be deemed illegal if they do not have a public mains water connection.
  • Check the water supply situation for existing houses carefully as even public mains supplies may be subject to limited supply and low pressure.
  • Non-mains water supplies in the countryside are often shared between several houses and can be inadequate for modern needs.
    Check carefully that you have documented water rights before buying the house, that the system is adequate year round for your purposes, and that you can obtain the necessary permissions from landowners and the Galician water authority for any improvements you want to make to the supply system.
  • Private water supplies in the countryside should be checked to see if you are happy with the quality of water you are likely to get. Some checks it is worth doing are:
    • Is there any lead piping anywhere in the system? Lead is poisonous and some old systems may still use sections of lead pipe.
    • Is the water stored where it is likely to remain cool enough to avoid bacterial problems? Galician ground water is generally fairly cold but if a tank is used in the system to give capacity and pressure there is sometimes (eg. metal tanks on a tower) a risk of storage temperatures rising past the point where legionella and other bacteria may become a problem.
    • Is the tank sanitary and filter protected against animal/insect ingress? Water tanks should be but often aren’t fully enclosed without cracks or gaps and with fine mesh filters fitted to all intakes and escapes to prevent insects or animals getting into the tank (where they subsequently die and decompose into the water supply).
    • What type of tubing connects the water supply to the house? Black plastic water tubing is pretty much ubiquitous these days but it comes in various grades of which only the ones labelled “uso alimentario” are suitable for use with drinking water. Any tubing not of this type (and as a rule of thumb, if there is old tubing buried underground then it is not of this type) may be of a less stable plastic composition that could leach some fairly unpleasant chemicals into the water.
  • You can get water tested to see if it is drinkable at most chemists (farmacias, who send the samples off to a lab in one of the cities) for around 35-40€, but be aware that these tests are quite basic (metals, organic elements, etc.) and don’t check for eg. plastic residues. Some farmacias offer a more expensive but more comprehensive testing service.

As with water supplies, mains sewage availability affects building permissions. While laws regarding sewage are strict they are often infrequently applied in rural areas, but an inadequate system may be poisoning your neighbours’ drinking water…

  • If there is no public mains sewage service accessible you may well be unable to get permission for a new build.
  • Any houses, even if built with permissions, within the 100 metre coastal zone may be deemed illegal if they do not have a public sewage connection.
  • To fully comply with the law existing houses with a standalone system should have an adequate septic tank and a fats separator. In some areas septic tanks are not permitted, and if such a regulation is introduced where your house is you will be required to connect to the public sewage system at your own expense (and note that it is not uncommon for this system to be considerably higher up than your house, necessitating the use of expensive pumps).
  • If you buy an old house that has no septic tank (and a lot of them don’t in the countryside) you may be required to install one and could also be liable for fines if your sewage pollutes rivers and/or neighbouring properties or their water supplies.

Mains electricity connection also affects planning permissions and can be more limited in some rural parts of Galicia than you might expect.

  • Although getting an electric connection is normally no problem on any land which can be built on, the lack of the possibility to connect to one may make planning permission harder to get for a new build.
  • Whilst constructing a new house you can be connected only to a builders’ electrical supply. This is a temporary supply that can be cut off at any time. To formalise the electrical supply to a new house you must have your primera ocupacion (habitation) licence.
  • Any houses, even if built with permissions, within the 100 metre coastal zone may be deemed illegal if they do not have a public mains water connection.
  • In rural areas you may only be able to get a limited supply (eg. 25 amps). You should confirm this with Union Fenosa at the planning stage and design an electrical system that works for your needs within the available supply.

Gas provides a cheaper and more efficient way of heating water than electricity but its availability is limited to bottled supplies in most of Galicia.

  • Mains gas is only available in cities and some towns. Check this before planning gas powered appliances in your project.
  • If you plan to use bottled gas then check for local availability and delivery schedules and routes to your plot at the planning stage.
  • Also check on the types of contract available for bottled gas supplies as this will normally involve signing up to a service schedule for your gas installations.
  • Gas appliances come with a number of regulations. Combi boilers and bottles should normally be sited outside the living space (eg. in an outhouse) and certainly be externally vented. Any room with gas appliances in it (eg. a kitchen) must have floor level 10cmx10cm vents that will prevent the buildup of gas within the building in the event of a leak.
Telephone and internet

Telephone and internet connection is essential for most north European immigrants but often optional for native rural populations, and sometimes completely unavailable, and so a must check.

  • Some rural areas have no fixed line telephone access. Some also have no mobile coverage either. This is unlikely to change in the near future as all Movistar’s (the owner of the fixed line network) infrastructure resources are currently going into fibre optic and 4G networks in the major cities and towns, so check that your site provides for your communication needs before buying it.
  • If fixed line ADSL is unavailable then 3.5G mobile coverage is widely available, although monthly data limits may make things like watching TV from your home country prohibitively expensive. If mobile coverage is poor then satellite internet may be your only option, but this is expensive.
  • Most rural areas have fixed line broadband at, at best, 2.5Mbps download and 0.15Mbps upload. Check that this is adequate for your needs – if not there isn’t really an alternative outside the cities, and nor is there likely to be any time soon.
  • If there is no telephone pole in connecting distance from your plot confirm with Movistar whether they can install one and whether you will have to pay anything towards it.