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ClientEarth Communications

21st March 2024

Diving into Spain's water crisis: new ClientEarth report

This World Water Day, ClientEarth releases a new report uncovering flaws in Spain's river basin management plans. The report reveals that more than half of Spain's water bodies are not in good condition due to ongoing challenges. With climate change on the horizon, these problems are only expected to get worse as water demand rises and availability dwindles.

As climate change intensifies across Europe, Spain's water management faces significant challenges, struggling to adapt to climate shifts while meeting the standards set by the EU's Water Framework Directive (WFD), the European Union legislation aimed at protecting and improving water quality across Member States. 

The impact of climate change is evident across Europe, leading to severe droughts and scarcity. Effective water planning is crucial amid broader global challenges, spanning climate change, health, biodiversity, and pollution.

With its Mediterranean climate and irregular rainfall, Spain grapples with mounting pressure on its water resources. This poses considerable challenges for river basin planning and management, with demand rising as availability dwindles.

Report findings

The report shows Spain's river basin planning falls short of the WFD’s objectives, with more than half of the country’s water bodies failing to achieve good status, a trend projected to continue by 2027.

Internationally significant aquatic ecosystems, such as Doñana National Park and Mar Menor, suffer significant degradation.

The report also analyses Spanish river basin management plans, focusing on major river basins like the Ebro, Segura, Guadalquivir, and Tajo rivers. It also delves into critical issues like climate change adaptation and ecological flows.

Through case studies, the report reveals inadequacies in areas like the Tajo River, Ebro Delta, and Mar Menor. It also examines Special Drought Plans, emphasizing the need for climate change adaptation.

Key recommendations call for a shift towards sustainable river basin management, prioritising river functionality and ecosystem preservation.

The report underscores the pressing need to address climate change within river basin management strategies and to implement the WFD effectively. It is important to ensure sustainable water use and ecosystem preservation not only in Spain, but also throughout Europe.

Download the Executive Summary in English.

Download the full report in Spanish.