Almost half Spain’s water sources are polluted

by Deborah Cater
Polluted water levels too high in Spain

Forty percent of the water from rivers, lakes, wetlands and basins is of poor quality and does not meet the established  water quality standard. Polluted water costs the government dearly.

This is evident from the research of 26 different hydrographic services that the newspaper El Diario looked into. In concrete terms, this concerns 2,450 of the total 6,188 water masses included in new hydrological plans. The problems arise from the imbalance between the amount of water extracted and that which is available, the discharge of waste products into the water from agriculture and livestock farming. There is also the degeneration of the ecosystems through which this water flows.

The Ministry of Ecological Transition considers it necessary to invest in a solution to the polluted water problem. The water quality is worst in the river Segura (which flows through Castile La Mancha, Valencia and Murcia), where 60% of the water mass does not meet the quality standard. In watersheds in Catalonia and the river Guadiana, this percentage is 58%. Pollution is present in more than half the water mass of the Tagus River, the Guadalete and the Balearic Islands. River water from the Duero, Tinto-Odiel-Piedras and Mediterranean sea water in Andalucia has above average pollution.

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Galicia has cleanest water

The cleanest water in Spain is on the Galician coast (16% water pollution ) and Cantabria (20%). The Ministry of Ecological Transition calculated €1.7billion from the European emergency fund can be used for water policy.  €800million of that is intended for restoring water quality and flood protection.

Fine of €10million every six months

The purification of used water also leaves something to be desired, according to environmental organisation Ecologistas in Acción. Spain discharges the waste water of 9 million people untreated into rivers and the sea. Of the treatment plants still functioning, only 35% are doing as they should. This will cost Spain dearly; from 2019 the Spanish government pays a fine of around €10million to the EU every six months for its poor water purification systems.

Agriculture plays a major role in solving the problem

Experts agree the agricultural sector should take part in tackling the water problem. This sector is the largest water consumer and, together with intensive livestock farming, also the largest water polluter. Hernández-Mora advocates not only investing in new treatment systems, but also making demands on water consumption. It has become clear that investing in systems and not in measures has not led to better water quality.

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