Current rains are no guarantee of future water supply in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
water supply Spain

MADRID – Greenpeace has warned that current rainfall does not guarantee Spain’s future water supply. Water “pollution” and “poor water management” will “endanger” reserves for decades to come. 

Spain remains the country in Europe most at risk of desertification. 75% of its territory is under threat and 6% is already irreversibly degraded, the environmental organisation says in a report on its website. 

Guadalquivir basin officially declared a drought 

Despite the fact that summer 2021 has been more humid than usual in terms of rainfall, the NGO warns that Spain has already officially declared the Guadalquivir basin a drought. Other basins, such as the Guadiana, Duero, Guadalete-Barbate, Mediterráneas Andaluzas, Segura or Miño-Sil, contain less than 40% of their reserves. 

Mismanagement of water supply 

The problem of lack of water, according to Greenpeace, “is partly due to the decrease in rainfall (exacerbated by the climate crisis). But it also depends on the mismanagement of water resources. This mismanagement is reflected in industrial irrigation, water transfers, illegal wells, and export. Furthermore, there is also the degree of pollution of the water that promotes the lack of it: according to the NGO, this concerns pollution from industry, macro-agriculture, intensive agriculture, and in particular the olive groves or mango and avocado plantations. 

Irrigation (especially the olive grove) 

Furthermore, the environmental group cites the Guadalquivir basin in Andalucia as an example of this problem. There, ‘drought’ justifies a situation of water shortage. This is caused by the enormous demand for water resources due to intensive use of irrigation, especially for the olive groves. 

Greenpeace opposes the hydrological plan of the Guadalquivir basin. Indeed, this is associated with intensive and hyper-intensive olive cultivation and could lead to its hydrological collapse. According to Luis Berraquero, Greenpeace Andalucia coordinator, a just water management transition should be planned for the Andalucian agricultural sector. One that is adapted to climate change scenarios. 

Greenpeace has mapped out the consequences of the water problem in Andalucia. The main hydrographic basin of the Guadalquivir was officially declared an “exceptional situation due to extraordinary drought” on November 2. 

Cogesa Expats

What does global warming mean for Spain? 

Julio Barea, head of water at Greenpeace, says the images show “an alarming reality”. Furthermore, he believes we “can’t keep looking the other way”. “We urgently need to change the way we manage natural resources to mitigate the effects of desertification and the coming droughts,” he adds. 

Over a million illegal wells 

The images show the interaction in the problem of aspects such as the change in the agricultural production model leading to increasing mass irrigation; “uncontrolled consumption and mismanagement”; waste and pollution; the existence of “more than a million illegal wells extracting an equal amount of water sufficient for the consumption of a population of more than 110 million people. 

 Severe degree of pollution 

To improve water management, Greenpeace deems it urgent to “change traditional water management policies, combat serious pollution of inland waters and introduce scientifically established ecological flow regimes”. 

Spain’s drought alarming for primary sector 

The NGO also proposes “to ensure the balance between resource demand and availability. This would be based on the current boundaries of each river basin district. The construction and construction of demanding water facilities such as golf courses and theme parks must be stopped. The actual quantities of used water must be controlled. Furthermore, the quantities of water actually used must be controlled and the irregular and illegal use of water must be stopped”. 

Need for an increase in organic farming 

In addition, Greenpeace calls for: “increasing organic farming acreage and using local varieties adapted to the climate”; “converting intensive and super-intensive irrigation in small and medium-sized farms”; “starting a just water transition”; “banning new industrial agricultural projects and supporting expanded local production”, and “achieving the complete transformation of the current energy system towards a 100% renewable system”. 

How Andalucian Benidorm Is Ending Wetland Doñana 

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