The debate surrounding the Tagus-Segura transfer and the new hydrological planning cycle, which is at the top of the agenda this year, leads to the same “confrontational paths” since the introduction of this infrastructure more than 40 years ago. That’s one of the reasons why the New Water Culture Foundation has published a new report in which, under “political pressure”, it offers its opinion for a “calm and constructive” debate. Among his proposals, he advocates a “progressive shutdown” of the transmission, not because of the new hydrological plan’s protection of ecological flows, but because of the “reality” of climate change.
“It is urgent to initiate a benefit adaptation policy that will allow a fair and rapid restructuring with an equal distribution of costs and profits, creating a space for dialogue that promotes reasoning between all parties involved,” he emphasizes.
How do you come to this conclusion? A new water culture foundation begins with protecting the establishment of ecological flows, which are needed to maintain river habitats and are necessary to provide water in sufficient quantity and quality for irrigation and other economic activities.
This is what the Supreme Court has established in its decisions, in accordance with Spanish and European regulations, but “the hydrological administration, succumbing to the pressure of users, has often chosen to minimize ecological flows, thus many will sometimes stop ecological flows because they will not be able to fulfill their functions”. In general, the ecological flow regime established for river-type masses in Spain “has shortcomings and needs to be improved”.
In the case of the Tagus, remember that the definition and implementation of the ecological flow regime was always conditioned by the existence of the Tagus-Segura diversion and the “resulting political pressure”.
New Hydrological Planning: ‘Shy Progress’
He believes that although the hydrological plan for the third cycle of the Spanish part of the Tagus River Basin District (2022-2027) makes “shy progress” in this respect and establishes an ecological flow, its gradual implementation is an “anomaly”. In the rest of the demarcation, the entry into force of the flow regime and the violation of what was established by the Supreme Court.
In addition, it warns that, although the maintenance of the flow regime in the Tagus is now approved, it implies some reduction of the maximum volume transferred to the Segura Basin, the main reason for the reduction of transfers “will not be the use of ecological flows. Tajo, but climate change.” “This is not a future threat, but a stark reality.
The Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua sees the general deterioration of rivers, aqueducts and all water bodies in all areas of the river basin as “indisputable”, a reality that is also “very evident” in the Tagus and Segura basins.
He cites “pressure on rivers and aquifers” as one of the main reasons, both due to high catchments and pollution. “Agriculture, and specifically irrigation, is one of the main pressures to catch up, given that irrigation represents about 80% of all consumption use in Spain.” This means a reduction in circulating flows and the over-exploitation of groundwater due to over-extraction for irrigation, which affects wetlands as important as the Doñana National Park in Andalusia or the Tablas de Damiel in Castilla-La Mancha, “drying up sources and creating problems. Supply”.
He also claims that irrigation is one of the main sources of surface and ground water pollution. And he warns that “the short-term monetary benefits of intensive agriculture (and livestock) obscure the long-term economic balance, not taking into account the depletion or pollution of renewable resources or, more generally, the loss of ecosystem services.” .
“Therefore, the emphasis of water policy should be on protecting ecosystems, restoring water quality and adapting water use to ensure its sustainability, without which economic activities such as agriculture cannot exist.”
In fact, his conclusion is that, within the framework of a fair water transition, it is necessary to agree on a road map of “the progressive disconnection of the Segura basin in relation to the Tagus flows”, in response to the new reality imposed. Climate change and the need to restore all rivers to good condition.
The aim is to achieve a better balance between primary activities and other economic activities that have a higher added value with less water consumption.
That is why it proposes short-term measures, such as the elimination of illegal water use, including irregular irrigation perimeter; increase the contribution of resources from marine desalination to compensate for reduced transfers from the Tagus; Public financial assistance aimed at reducing the cost of saline water is limited to those farmers whose profitability could be significantly affected by an increase in the cost of water.
In the long term, New Water Culture proposes a progressive change in production models to promote a more diversified economy in the area at different scales. “It is about achieving a better balance between primary activities and other economic activities that generate more added value with less water consumption.”
Maintaining the fantasy of “water for all” or “water forever” is simply a fraud. The delay in recognizing the new context only helps to exacerbate the collision with reality and delay the construction of a viable and long-term alternative. It is urgent to initiate a benefit adaptation policy that will allow for a fair and rapid restructuring with an equal distribution of costs and benefits, creating a space for dialogue that promotes reasoning between all parties involved.
Source: El Diario