Spain gets poor marks on water resources management

Spain is failing to protect its rivers and wetlands area, according to the European Commission. Photo: WWF / Retema
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Spain’s water resources policies for the protection of rivers, lakes, wetlands and underground aquifers are failing and nearly half the country’s river eco-systems are rapidly deteriorating, according to a report issued by the European Commission on the Hydrological Policies of member states for the period 2016-2021.

According to the report, Spanish government authorities have failed to meet the standards set by the the Water Framework Directive, which was adopted by the European Union in 2000 and is the most important regulatory framework for EU-wide protection of rivers, wetlands and aquifers.

Spain was previously the EU country with the greatest number of recommendations from the European Commission to improve water resources management, according to the report. But of 37 EC recommendations, Spain has so far only managed to fully implement six, partially complied with 24 recommendations and failed to make progress at all on seven recommendations for improving the quality of its waterways. According to the report, 46 percent of the country’s rivers are currently suffering from degraded environmental conditions.

The report cited a failure to adequately measure the amount of water extracted from underground aquifers and the negative effect this has on wetlands and river ecosystems in Spain, as well as a reduction since 2009 in the number of measuring stations to gauge water quantity and quality — despite the EC having called for an increase in measuring stations in its last report on EU member state hydrology policies.

The report also called for greater effort in monitoring the presence of fish, wildlife and vegetation present in river ecosystems, stemming the discharge of pesticides into Spanish waterways and reduction in the number of dams and other infrastructure that obstructs the natural flow of water in rivers, streams and wetland areas.

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