Skip to content

Location successfully changed to Español


Noticias Se abre en una nueva ventana Donar
Return to mob menu

Busca por palabra clave

Fauna silvestre y hábitats | 23 febrero 2024

Report (Executive Summary) on Spanish river basin plans of the third cycle: climate change and key aspects in the implementation of the water framework directive
Fauna silvestre y hábitats

PDF | 5653 kb

Descargar el elemento

Report (Executive Summary) on Spanish river basin plans of the third cycle: climate change and key aspects in the implementation of the water framework directive

Water planning and management in Spain: ClientEarth launches a report on the latest river basin management plans, identifying structural problems and failures in adapting to climate change.

In large parts of Europe, climate change is increasingly aggravating unsustainable water use, leading to extreme droughts and increasing water scarcity. Water planning and management plays a crucial role, also in the face of the global challenges of climate, health, biodiversity and pollution.

Spain is a country with a high water consumption pressure, in a territory with a mostly Mediterranean climate and low and irregularly distributed rainfall. Climate change further aggravates the challenges in Spanish river basin planning and management, reducing the amount of water available in the face of growing demand.

Anticipating and managing the adverse effects of climate change, such as floods, river, coastal and soil erosion, advancing desertification, meteorological droughts, heat waves and forest fires, remains a key challenge in Spain, which is one of the most affected countries in the European Union.

In this context, water planning and management in the European Union revolves around the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which establishes binding objectives for the Member States with the aim of ensuring that water use is sustainable and compatible with the good status of European water bodies within the timeframes established over three planning cycles. However, despite more than twenty years since the Directive was approved, Spanish river basin planning continues to show recurrent shortcomings, also evident in the last third planning cycle. As a result, approximately half of the water bodies in Spain do not currently achieve good status, and it is likely that they will not do so in 2027 either. In general, aquatic ecosystems are under strong pressure on water quantity and quality, with dramatic cases of protected areas such as Doñana or the Mar Menor, in a process of severe degradation.

Building on the tireless work of organisations, citizen groups and scientific experts, ClientEarth launches this report, which analyses the latest Spanish river basin management plans in four large inter-community river basin districts (Ebro, Segura, Guadalquivir and Tajo) with information also from other districts, such as the Júcar.

This report addresses key issues, including the treatment of climate change, the use of exemptions in good status objectives and ecological flows in water planning (essential for the conservation and restoration of rivers and river ecosystems). It also includes case studies that demonstrate significant inadequacies, such as the middle stretch of the Tagus river, the Ebro delta, Doñana, Mar Menor and the Alcolea dam project. In addition, the drafts of the Special Drought Plans (PES) are analysed in terms of adaptation to climate change and the application of the exception of temporary deterioration in the event of drought. These are all key aspects of water management in the countries of southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin, and are strategic aspects that will increasingly have to be addressed by the water management plans of other European countries as climate change progresses.

The analysis highlights the need for a change of route from the current depleted and unsustainable water planning and management model, characterised by massive water abstraction and pollution, with the loss of river ecosystem services, as well as the reduction of water resources brought about by climate change. In a management system that prioritises socio-economic uses, it is essential that rivers regain their functionality, including, among other things, a better connection between surface and groundwater, healthy and functional riparian forests, and more water for ecosystems. This will improve society's resilience to climate change and other challenges in a fair and sustainable way for all.


1. Consideration of climate change in the Spanish third cycle river basin management plans: quantification of water resources, adaptation to climate change and allocation of resources to demands, the Water Exploitation Index (WEI), irrigation modernisation and drought plans (including the derogation under article. 4.6 WFD).

2. Exemptions to good status: derogations from articles 4.4, 4.5 and 4.7 WFD (deadline extensions, less rigorous objectives and deterioration due to new modifications).

3. The environmental flow regime in third cycle river basin management plans: definition, calculation, inclusion in plans; degree of compliance and adaptive monitoring; repercussions on the state of ecosystems (fish indicators, solid flows and connection between surface and groundwater); protected areas, the Natura 2000 Network and coordination with other administrations; specific analysis of environmental flows in two case studies, the middle-course of River Tagus and the Ebro Delta.

4. Case studies in other strategic areas: Doñana (impacts on protected areas due to the poor quantitative condition); Mar Menor (Impacts on protected areas due to poor qualitative condition); Project for the realisation of the Alcolea Reservoir (deficiencies in the cost recovery estimate and strategic planning).

Full report in Spanish 

Executive Summary in Spanish