Garrido Colmenero, Alberto and Llamas Madurga, Manuel Ramón
Water management in Spain: an example of changing paradigms.
In: "Expozaragoza 2008. Exposición Internacional "Agua y Desarrollo Sostenible"", 12/05/2008-15/05/2008, Zaragoza, España.
Both in principles and practical terms, Spain’s water policy has changed dramatically in the last years years. This rapid evolution has been accompanied by growing water problems, of which the Spanish society is becoming increasingly concern. This paper reviews the recent history of Spanish water policy, examines its weaknesses and strengths and draws policy relevant conclusions for other arid and semiarid countries. Key drivers of change, including serious environmental degradation, growing water demand, climatic change, agricultural policy and economic growth provide the context for recent water policy landmarks. Among these the reform of the water law in 1999, enabling water market transactions, the EU Water Framework Directive, the 2001 national hydrological plan and its subsequent reform in 2004 mark a decade of radical policy initiatives. Underlying them, water users, managers and society in general also show signs of new attitudes, thinking and awareness. In the paper, we review a few innovative programmes that tackle problems whose solution is long overdue, but shows signs of success. We look at the economics of water resources, including flexible allocation instruments, voluntary arrangements, and water prices. We also review how the most pressing problems associated with instensive use of groundwater resources are being addressed, after decades of unsuccessful attempts. Finally, we look at the irrigation sector, by far the largest water consumer in Spain and the one in which policies can accomplish the largest impacts. Furthermore, we elaborate on the impact that virtual water trade can have on water supply for the production of food and fibers.