- The plans have been developed in response to the challenges of climate change and the increased recurrence of extreme events such as droughts and floods.
- To this end, more than 6,500 measures are established with an investment of 22,844 million.
- Among these investments, some stand out, such as the more than 6,600 M€ destined to actions to improve sanitation and purification; the more than 2,200 M€ for the improvement of supplies. More than 5,000 M€ will be invested in irrigation infrastructures, more than 2,000 M€ for flood risk management and almost 1,300 M€ for the restoration and conservation of the Public Hydraulic Domain.
The Council of Ministers, at the proposal of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), has approved the Third Cycle Hydrological Plans, a document that defines the lines of action to manage water resources in Spain from now until 2027. The approval of these plans marks the culmination of a long process to modernize water planning in Spain, in which solutions to the main problems in water management in our country have been identified and presented.
Thus, the plans have been developed in response to the challenges of climate change, such as extreme events, droughts and floods. They are also fully aligned with European policies such as the Green Pact, the "Zero Pollution" Plan and the new European Directive on the quality of water for human consumption. These measures seek to mitigate the risk of floods and droughts, contribute to achieving environmental objectives and protect biodiversity while making progress in adapting to climate change.
To this end, more than 6,500 measures are established with an investment of 22,844 million euros, distributed as follows:
- More than 10.6 billion euros, or 46.7% of the total will be financed by the General State Administration.
- Almost €8.3 billion (36.3%) will be borne by the Autonomous Communities and Cities.
- More than 2.3 billion euros (10.2%) will be financed by local government.
- The remaining 6.7%, more than €1.5 billion, by other financing agents.
Among these investments, some stand out such as the more than 6,600 M€ destined to actions to improve sanitation and purification; the more than 2,200 M€ to improve supplies; more than 5,000 M€ to be invested in irrigation infrastructures; more than 2,000 M€ for flood risk management and almost 1,300 M€ for the restoration and conservation of the Public Hydraulic Domain.
Differences with the previous Hydrological Planning
Unlike the first and second cycle plans, the new plans define ecological flows for all bodies of water, determining minimum and maximum flows to ensure the protection of bodies of water, ecosystems and the territory. They also include the measures necessary to reduce the environmental pressures on water bodies by acting on the activities that generate them.
The plans have been developed to respond to the challenges of climate change, such as extreme events, droughts and floods.
It is estimated that Spanish river flows have been reduced by 12% since 1980. In order to adapt to a reality in which climate change will reduce the availability of water, the text proposes a change of trend in the use of resources. Specifically, allocations for different uses are reduced from the 28,000 hm³/year established in the previous plan to 26,800 hm3/year, a measure aimed at guaranteeing equitable access to water for all citizens. At the same time, in order to diversify the sources of water resources, desalination is given greater prominence, thus guaranteeing supply and balancing demand and environmental requirements.
In order to promote water quality, together with the competent administrations, the improvement of sanitation and purification is promoted to remedy the delays accumulated by our country in complying with European regulations on wastewater protection. In the same line, measures to fight against diffuse pollution are reinforced, as established in the Royal Decree of January 2022 on the protection of water against diffuse pollution caused by agricultural nitrates. In addition, measures to fight against emerging pollutants such as micro plastics or antibiotics are contemplated.
The new planning also focuses on the environmental recovery of river areas and on reducing the risk of flooding, incorporating solutions based on nature, as well as on water security.
Ensuring good water status
These plans, together with the "Flood Risk Management" plans, also approved by the Council of Ministers last week, and the "Special Drought Plans", which are expected to be approved during this year, contemplate the main measures that will make it possible to achieve the good condition of our bodies of water and achieve a high degree of water security and, in short, respect the environment without compromising socioeconomic development.
The new plans define ecological flows for all water bodies, determining minimum and maximum flows, so as to ensure the protection of water bodies, ecosystems and the territory.
The next planning phase ended in 2021, with the approval of the draft water plans that address these issues. Both phases involved extensive public consultation and participation: nine months in the case of the outlines of major issues - instead of the six months initially planned, which were extended because of the pandemic - and six months in the case of the draft water plans.
The plans have been reported by the water councils and the committees of competent authorities of each basin (between March 29 and May 3, 2022) and by the Advisory Council for the Environment (April 27, 2022) and have received reports from the National Water Council (November 29, 2022) and the Council of State (January 19, 2023). At the same time, the hydrological plans have been submitted to the mandatory strategic environmental assessment, approved on November 10, 2022.
Modernizing water management
The hydrological plans are complemented by other instruments developed by MITECO such as the "Strategic Guidelines on Water and Climate Change", the "National Plan for Purification, Sanitation, Efficiency and Reuse" (DSEAR), the second cycle Flood Risk Management Plans (PGRI), the special drought plans, the National Strategy for River Restoration, or the Groundwater Action Plan, which modernize and prepare water management for future challenges.
The main objective of the Strategic Project for the Recovery and Transformation of the Economy (PERTE) for the Digitalization of the water cycle is to increase the efficiency of water use. It will use new technologies and "big data" to obtain accurate and updated information on available water resources and demands in urban supply and irrigation, with a total investment of €3,060 million.