Observatorio de I+D+i UPM

Memorias de investigación
Comunicación: "Water Policy in Spain: an example of changing paradigms" presentada al 6th Dialogue on Science
Research Areas
  • Agricultural policy,
  • Applied economics
Both in principles and practical terms, Spain's water policy has changed dramatically in the last years years. This rapid evolution has been accompanied by growing water problems, of which the Spanish society is becoming increasingly concern. This paper reviews the recent history of Spanish water policy, examines its weaknesses and strengths and draws policy relevant conclusions for other arid and semiarid countries. Key drivers of change, including serious environmental degradation, growing water demand, climatic change, agricultural policy and economic growth provide the context for recent water policy landmarks. Among these the reform of the water law in 1999, enabling water market transactions, the EU Water Framework Directive, the 2001 national hydrological plan and its subsequent reform in 2004 mark a decade of radical policy initiatives. Underlying them, water users, managers and society in general also show signs of new attitudes, thinking and awareness. In the paper, we review a few innovative programmes that tackle problems whose solution is long overdue, but shows signs of success. We look at the economics of water resources, including flexible allocation instruments, voluntary arrangements, and water prices. We also review how the most pressing problems associated with instensive use of groundwater resources are being addressed, after decades of unsuccessful attempts. Finally, we look at the irrigation sector, by far the largest water consumer in Spain and the one in which policies can accomplish the largest impacts. Furthermore, we elaborate on the impact that virtual water trade can have on water supply for the production of food and fibers. The paper concludes summarising the most outstanding lessons that the Spanish case can provide to water policy discussions at a global scale. These are (a) large water projects are not the solution to unsustainable water uses or enhance water supply reliability; (b) flexible and adaptable solutions, that rely on technlogies, infrastruture and demand management instruments are more complex and require multiple standpoints and longer maturation periods; (c) the actual costs of supplying water at subsidized prices multiply spilling over other users, the taxpayer and the environment, especially when scarcity becomes acute; (d) rigid, hierarchical and top-down planning models fails when water hegemonic thinking and political coalitions break down; (e) accesible information, science-based decision making and public participation are key elements to breakthrough entrenched and adversarial positions; (f) innovative water policies require strong budgets, sound finance and equitable burden distribution.
Endelberg Academy
Entity Nationality
Endelberg, Suiza
  • Autor: Alberto Garrido Colmenero (UPM)
Research Group, Departaments and Institutes related
  • Creador: Grupo de Investigación: Economía Agraria y Gestión de los Recursos Naturales
  • Departamento: Economía y Ciencias Sociales Agrarias
S2i 2020 Observatorio de investigación @ UPM con la colaboración del Consejo Social UPM
Cofinanciación del MINECO en el marco del Programa INNCIDE 2011 (OTR-2011-0236)
Cofinanciación del MINECO en el marco del Programa INNPACTO (IPT-020000-2010-22)