Volume 28, Issue 1

March 2012
Special Issue on Water Policy and Management in Spain

Foreword »

Francisco González-Lodeiro

Introduction »

Water Policy and Management in Spain

Francisco González-Gómez, Miguel A. García-Rubio and Jorge Guardiola

Research Article

The Challenges of Implementing the Water Framework Directive in Spain

Marta Moren-Abata and Ana Rodríguez-Roldánb
aGeneral Director of Water Resources, Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, Madrid, Spain; bHead of the Technical Support Office to the General Directorate of Water Resources, Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, Madrid, Spain

Contact: Ana Rodríguez-Roldán | Email: arodriguezr@marm.es


The paper analyses the challenges the Water Framework Directive represents for Spain. The main issues include the complexity of implementing water planning under the present institutional arrangements, the difficulties of putting into practice the principle of cost recovery, and the validation of the scientific criteria of the Directive in terms of water quality. In spite of the added difficulties resulting from the very rigid timeframe for the implementation of the Directive as well as the international economic crisis which has affected every economic and social sector in the country, the Directive is considered as an opportunity to modernize and improve water policy in Spain.

Pages: 13-18


Research Article

The European Water Framework Directive: A Framework?

Francisco Cabezas
Euro-Mediterranean Water Institute Foundation; Ecology and Hydrology Department, University of Murcia, Spain

Contact: Francisco Cabezas | Email: cabezas@um.es


The European Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy—in short, WFD) is probably the most ambitious and complex of all European environmental regulations. In Spain, and in some other countries, the idea has spread that the WFD involves a radical change of perspective and will obsolete the previous regulations about water. In my opinion, this mystification of the WFD is profoundly naive and reveals a lack of knowledge of history and an insufficient perspective on the global problem. In some sectors the WFD has generated a mirage and collective illusion, from which it must awaken if it wishes to advance, in an effective, non-rhetorical way, towards real improvements of the existing situation.

Pages: 19-26


Research Article

Who Manages Spain’s Water Resources? The Political and Administrative Division of Water Management

María-Teresa Sánchez-Martínez, Manuel Salas-Velasco and Noelina Rodríguez-Ferrero
Applied Economics Department, University of Granada, Spain

Contact: María-Teresa Sánchez-Martínez | Email: tsanchez@ugr.es


At the beginning of the 20th century, Spain introduced a pioneering system of water management by river basins, which was later endorsed by the EU Water Framework Directive. Recently, for a variety of political and administrative reasons, a number of fierce territorial disputes and debates have arisen that challenge the validity of this system. Changes have also taken place in the way water is managed, with a shift towards a more environmentally friendly approach. It is recommended that the river basin remain the basic territorial unit for any water management system, although this will require a National Water Agreement.

Pages: 27-42


Research Article

Assessment of the Draft Hydrological Basin Plan of the Guadalquivir River Basin (Spain)

Julio Berbela, Solveig Kolberga and Julia Martin-Ortegab
aDepartment of Agricultural Economics, University of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain; bThe James Hutton Institute, United Kingdom

Contact: Julio Berbel | Email: berbel@uco.es


This paper evaluates and discusses the draft Hydrological Basin Plan (HBP) for the Guadalquivir river basin and its related Programme of Measures (PoM). The HBP focuses on demand management using technical and economic measures, particularly through investment in water efficiency measures. In addition, it seeks to eliminate urban point source pollution. By 2015, a sustainable water resource demand is projected if the current area of irrigated land is not expanded and if the urban waste water treatment work is completed according to Directive 91/271/CEE. It is expected that costs of implementation will be high. The total investment of the PoM is estimated to be 978 Euros per capita per year; this investment has an annual equivalent cost of 143 Euros per capita per year. However, it is estimated that 67% of the total investment can be recovered with special impact in increase in the cost of irrigation water by 160% and the cost of urban water by 60%. Finally, this paper ends with a discussion on the most critical points likely to hinder the HBP being used effectively as a tool for sustainable water management.

Pages: 43-55


Research Article

Irrigated Agriculture in Spain: Diagnosis and Prescriptions for Improved Governance

José A. Gómez-Limóna and Andrés J. Picazo-Tadeob
aDepartment of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Policy, University of Cordoba, Spain; bDepartment of Applied Economics, Universidad de Valencia, Spain

Contact: José A. Gómez-Limón | Email: jglimon@uco.es


The objective of this paper is to diagnose the current state of irrigation in Spain in order to support government decision makers to improve the design and application of their plans for action. The analysis implemented shows that this sector faces two main challenges: the decrease in the support given by the Common Agricultural Policy (lower subsidies/incomes) and the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive (stricter environmental requirements). While the survival of extensive irrigated agriculture in inland regions depends on farmers producing different crops and modernizing production techniques, littoral regions must respond with technological innovation, especially techniques that save water and help differentiate their products. Within this scenario, a public policy is justified, aimed at improving Spanish irrigation schemes looking forward to better economic performance, an increase in the efficiency of water use and the mitigation of pollution problems.

Pages: 57-72


Research Article

Assessment of Nonpoint Pollution Instruments: The Case of Spanish Agriculture

Encarna Estebana and José Albiacb
aWater Science and Policy Center, University of California, Riverside, CA, USA; bAgrifood Research and Technology Centre, Government of Aragón, Zaragoza, Spain

Contact: José Albiac | Email: maella@unizar.es


Nonpoint pollution is characterized by imperfect knowledge of biophysical processes, stochastic components, and asymmetric information among agents. The design and implementation of measures to abate emissions is a difficult task because of this lack of biophysical information and the strategic behaviour of stakeholders. The development of input-intensive agriculture in Spain during the last century has created large discharges of nutrients and other harmful substances into water bodies, causing damage to aquatic ecosystems. In Spain and other European countries, the control of nonpoint pollution is a crucial step in achieving the “good” ecological status of water bodies sought by the European Water Framework Directive. The empirical findings challenge the current approach to pollution policies and call for policy efforts focused on nurturing stakeholders’ collective action and on supporting the necessary institutional setting.

Pages: 73-88


Research Article

Urban Water Service Policies and Management in Spain: Pending Issues

Francisco González-Gómez, Miguel A. García-Rubio and Jorge Guardiola
Department of Applied Economics and Water Research Institute, University of Granada, Spain

Contact: Francisco González Gómez | Email: fcojose@ugr.es


In the context of a developed nation like Spain, there are still important challenges to improving urban water service. Pending issues include the insufficient supervision and control of water service management, low prices that do not foster an efficient use of water, enormous disparity in water tariff design, deterioration of water quality at origin, insufficient network renewal, high level of water losses, lack of waste water treatment plans and supply quality problems. This paper describes all these problems and proposes measures and recommendations to solve them.

Pages: 89-106


Research Article

Is the Pricing of Urban Water Services Justifiably Perceived as Unequal among Spanish Cities?

Roberto Martínez-Espiñeiraa, Maria A. García-Valiñasb and Francisco González-Gómezc
aDepartment of Economics, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s, Canada; bEfficiency Group, Department of Economics, University of Oviedo, Spain and LERNA-INRA, Manufacture des Tabacs, Toulouse, France; cDepartment of Applied Economics and Water Research Institute, University of Granada, Spain

Contact: Roberto Martínez-Espiñeira | Email: rmartinezesp@mun.ca


Decentralized decision making and lack of regulation lead to the existence of signifficant differences in the price of water for residential uses among Spanish cities. Why do these differences persist? Do they have to do with cost differentials or do they result from political and business interests? Can users perceive water tariffs as fair or is there unfairness among citizens when it comes to the access to water? We find that some of the differences are due to arbitrary decisions made by policy and business decision makers, so it is recommended that a regulation be adopted that sets criteria for guidance in tariff design, especially for lower levels of consumption within which water is considered a merit good.

Pages: 107-121


Research Article

Tariffs for Urban Water Services in Spain: Household Size and Equity 

Fernando Arbués and Ramón Barberán
Department of Applied Economics and Institute of Environmental Sciences (IUCA), University of Zaragoza, Spain

Contact: Fernando Arbués | Email: farbues@unizar.es


The purpose of this work is to evaluate the consequences of tariffs that use sliding-scale prices to assess the aggregated consumption of households in terms of equity. Particular attention is paid to special tariffs for larger households. The study analyzes the tariffs that were in effect in Spanish provincial capitals in 2008. The results confirm that there are equity problems associated with the size of the household, particularly regarding large households. Furthermore, the results show that a large part of the special tariffs that have been adopted do not solve that equity problem.

Pages: 123-140


Research Article

Groundwater: The Invisible Resource

Fernando López-Vera
Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

Contact: Fernando López-Vera | Email: fernando.lopez-vera@uam.es


Groundwater in Spain remained a free resource until 1985, when it became regulated by a complex administrative regime. This regime, together with inefficient water use, has led to overexploitation, salination and other forms of contamination of underground water supplies in some southern, south-eastern and central areas of the Iberian Peninsula. Ecologically important wetlands in these regions have also been affected. This article analyzes the causes of groundwater mismanagement and proposes a new management model based on the formation of communities of users of the same body of groundwater. These communities would share management responsibilities with the water administration authority according to a new setofnorms and measures aimed atensuring sustainable use.

Pages: 141-150


Research Article

Evaluation of Spain’s Water-Energy Nexus

Laurent Hardya, Alberto Garridoa and Luis Juanab
aResearch Centre for the Management of Agricultural and Environmental Risks, Technical University of Madrid, Spain; Water Observatory, Botin Foundation, Santander, Spain; bRural Engineering Department, Technical School of Agricultural Engineers, Technical University of Madrid, Spain

Contact: Laurent Hardy | Email: laurent.hardy.mail@gmail.com


This paper explores the water-energy nexus of Spain and offers calculations for both the energy used in the water sector and the water required to run the energy sector. The article takes a prospective approach, offering evaluations of policy objectives for biofuels and expected renewable energy sources. Approximately 5.8% of total electricity demand in Spain is due to the water sector. Irrigated agriculture is one of the Spanish water sectors that show the largest growth in energy requirements. Searches for more efficient modes of farm water use, urban waste water treatment, and the use of desalinated water must henceforth include the energy component. Furthermore, biofuel production, to the levels targeted for 2020, would have an unbearable impact on the already stressed water resources in Spain. However, growing usage of renewable energy sources is not threatened by water scarcity, but legislative measures in water allocation and water markets will be required to meet the requirements of using these sources. Some of these measures, which are pushed by regional governments, are discussed in concluding sections.

Pages: 151-170


Research Article

Desalination in Spain: A Growing Alternative for Water Supply 

Miguel A. García-Rubio and Jorge Guardiola
Department of Applied Economics, University of Granada, Spain

Contact: Miguel A. García-Rubio | Email: magrubio@ugr.es


The Spanish Mediterranean coast has a significant water deficit. In order to deal with potential shortages in the future, the AGUA programme has been constructing desalination plants since 2004. Taking into account the growing importance of desalination in Spain, the objective of this research is to offer an overview of desalination in this country, its evolution and its present situation. This paper sets out to review the legal framework, the stakeholders who participate and support this activity, the technologies employed, the production costs and the environmental impacts. Some of the factors that have helped boost the interest in desalination are political support, the implementation of more adequate technologies and the favourable evolution of the associated costs.

Pages: 171-186