Spain sentenced to severe water shortages

by Lorraine Williamson
water shortages

MADRID – A new analysis from the World Wildlife Fund estimates that by 2050, three-quarters of the population will be at high risk of water shortages if no action is taken. 

In addition to the Murcia region, the following Andalucian cities are at the greatest risk of water shortages across Europe;

  • Seville
  • Granada
  • Córdoba

Even though 75% of the national territory is threatened by desertification, Spain opts in its hydrological plans for a water management model in which priority is given to the use of water for intensively irrigated and industrialised crops. However, together they consume 80% of the water. 

Water shortages threatens 17% of European residents 

At the European level, the organisation estimates that 17% of the continent’s inhabitants and 13% of GDP will be at risk of major to extreme water scarcity by 2050. That is, unless governments and companies take action now. 

Need a new model of water management 

WWF’s analysis shows that Europe will become even more prone to drought and water shortages. Spain, along with Greece, will be one of the countries with the highest risk of water stress. In the case of Greece, it is expected that by 2050, 82% of its population and GDP could be dependent on areas of high or extreme risk due to lack of water. 

For all these reasons, WWF is calling for a change to a new model of water management in the country. The demand must also be adapted to the resources available to guarantee water for nature and people. 

The conservation organisation estimates that 75% of the national territory is at risk of being destroyed by desertification. The WWF, therefore, denounces the fact that Spain has opted in its hydrological plans for a water management model that prioritises intensively irrigated and industrialised crops that consume 80% of the water. 

“Suicidal” water management 

WWF describes this water management as “suicidal” and adds that water over-exploitation has brought national reservoirs to historic lows again. Furthermore, the modernisation of irrigation carried out since 2005 has led to an increase in the irrigated area by 11%. 

cogesa expats

“Droughts in Europe and Spain should not surprise anyone; water risk maps have long pointed to increasing water scarcity across the continent. Climate forecasts point to greater frequency and intensity of heat waves and droughts due to climate change, making it more difficult to guarantee enough water for the population,” said the head of the WWF water program in Spain, Teresa Gil. 

“What should shock everyone is that governments, administrations and businesses are turning a blind eye to these recurring risks. In addition, they are increasingly basing their planning and economics on the increased use of water. They pretend that these risks disappear on their own. But without powerful measures is not going to happen,” she added. 

Illegal water extraction is a big problem 

WWF also states its research found that in Spain a huge area is irrigated with illegally extracted water. This affects four of the most important and over-exploited aquifers in the country. It concerns an area similar to 1.5 times the city of Madrid and an area of ​​more than 88,000 hectares. This illegal water extraction negatively affects the valuable natural areas of Daimiel, Doñana, Mar Menor and the rivers fed by the Los Arenales reservoir. 

In addition, it is thought that there are almost a million illegal wells. Consequently, this makes Spain the country with the largest over-exploitation of water in Europe. 

Need a different production model 

“Diversions and reservoirs are not the solutions to scarcity. We need a different production model. One that is less intensive and with a new form of irrigation that supports rainfed crops as a more sustainable option. Also, more investment in nature-based solutions to improve the health of rivers, wetlands and aquifers and make them more resilient to the effects of climate change,” she ends. 

On Twitter, WWF’s Juan Carlos del Olmo says Spain has been sentenced to “hydrological stress”. According to him, heavy efforts should be made to change the type of crops and prevent water theft. 

Also read: Measures to reduce water consumption in some autonomous regions

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