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Mrs. Inmaculada Bravo Dominguez
Spanish Ministry of Agriculture (MAPAMA)
Chief Engineer of Socio-Economic Study Area
at the Deputy Directorate of Irrigation
of General Directorate of Rural Development
at Gran Via San Francisco
No.4 '28071 Madrid

Tel : +34 913 475 812
Email : ibravo@mapama.es


Dr. Jos' A. Ortiz Fdz.-Urrutia
Vice President Hon., ICID
For address see Sr. No. 1

Email : aeryd@aeryd.es


Prof. Dr. Ricardo Segura Graiño
Vice President Hon., ICID
Ministerio de Medio Ambiente
Pl San Juan de la Cruz
Despacho C-708
Madrid 28071

Tel : +34 91 597 58 71
Email : rseguragr@yahoo.es


Dr. Jos' A. Ortiz Fdz.-Urrutia
Vice President Hon., ICID
For address see Sr. No.1

Email : aeryd@aeryd.es

Member - WG-SON-FARM


Dr. Juan A. Rodriguez- Diaz
For Address See S.No. 1 Above.

Tel : 0034 957212242
Mob : 0034 677881635
Email : jarodriguez@uco.es


Links of Interest
ICID Strategy for Implementing Sector Vision - Water for Food and Rural Development and Country Position Papers, 2000

ICID – Irrigation & Drainage in the World – A Global Review

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Spain, as one of the world's leading tourist countries, known for its colourful bullfights, rocky Atlantic Coast, Sunny Mediterranean beaches and Islands, sunny climate and beautiful story book castles, is the third largest country in Europe and occupies about 5/6ths of Iberian Peninsula, which lies in the South Western Europe, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Madrid is Spain's capital and largest city, situated in the centre of the country. Most of Spain is a high dry plateau, called the "Meseta Central". Hills and mountain chaines rise throughout the Meseta, and north of it a mountain barrier, the Pyrenees. extends across the peninsula and form border with France


The total population of Spain, as per 2000 estimates is 40.2 million, of which 16.8 million are active (7.1 % agriculture; 28.8 % industry and 64.1 % services). The population density is 79,7 persons per sq. km (km2), of whom 91 % are urban and 9 % rural. Although Spain has a non-confessional regime, about 99 per cent of the people are Roman Catholic. Spain is poor in natural resources, however its chief mineral resource is the high-grade iron ore found in the Northern Cantabran mountain chain. Copper, lead, mercury, potash, pyrite, salt, titanium, uranium and zinc are also found.




The total land area of Spain is 504,750 km2, including the Balearic and Canary Islands. Of the total land area, 244,493 km2 or 24,454 million ha (Mha) (48.4 %) is unsuitable for any kind of farming..




Northern Spain, along Atlantic Coast has mild summers, cool winters and plentifull rainfall year round. Eastern and South Spain has Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers with intense sun and mild moist winters. Remainder of Spain, mainly the Meseta Central, has continental climate with extreme hot, dry and sunny summers and very cold winters.




The mean annual rainfall in the country is 648 mm , however, the annual rainfall variation is very large, ranging from more than 1,600 mm over extensive zones of national territory (even exceedig 2,000 mm) to some 300 mm in the large south-eastern arm of the Peninsula. A rainfall as low as 200 mm in some areas of the south and in the Canary Islands occurs.


Water resources, legislation and development


The total average runoff (natural renewable resources) is about 220 mm/year or 111 000 million cubic meters (hm3) per year, corresponding to 504,750 km2 total surface runoff. Spain has about 1200 large dams with a total capacity of 56,000 hm3 and a regulation capacity of 39,175 hm3/year (35 % natural renewable resources), contrasting with the natural regulation hardly reaching 8,500 hm3/year.


From the Middle Ages and well before, surface waters were in general, considered in Spain as a public good, their use being normally subject to Royal grants and, if for irrigation, their management being entrusted to different kinds of farmers associations. These formerly private associations evolved for centuries until they were for the first time recognized as public entities by the Water Act of 1879, that however kept underground waters as private property.


Although the establishment of new irrigated areas has been for centuries a permanent concern of Spanish Kings, it wasn't until the turn of the 19th Century that it became a national need to encourage and support the private expansion of irrigation, to which purpose appropriate legislation was issued and subsidies were granted to private investors. This new water policy gave rise to a tremendous Sate and private effort which resulted in practically fourfold the existing irrigated area in 1900 and reach the regulation of 40% of natural renewable resources. The 20th was actually the Century when Governors became aware of the need to planify the water resources in order to achieve the country development, and first attempts to establish a National Hydrological Plan of global scope were made, including water transfers from excess to deficit showing regions, of which the Tagus-Segura Transfer is an outstanding example. A corner stone of that water policy was the territorial division into river basins, entrusting their administration to specific entities, the Hydrographic Confederations or River Basin Authorities, created in 1926.




About 51.6 % of Spain's total area (260,257 km2 or 26,026 Mha) is used for farming, either as crop land or as pasture and forest land. However agricultural production in most regions has always been low because of the poor soil and dry climate. About 2/3rd of all Spanish farmers are their own farms, the rest work as hired hands or tenants of large farms. Less than 1 % of all land owners hold about 50 per cent of the farm land in Spain, while the poorest 50 per cent of the land owners own only 5 % of the farm land. Out of the said 26,023 million hectares (Mha) that are suitable for agricultural purposes, 87 per cent is used for dry farming and the remaining 13 % is irrigated. The irrigated land is yield 50 % of total agricultural production. This indicates that 1 ha of irrigable land has the same production as 6.4 ha of dry farmed land. The present demand of water for agricultural use is about 24,094 hm3/year (7,010 m3/ha/yr), of which more than half comes from the great basins Ebro, Duero and Guadalquivir.




The total area equipped for irrigation in Spain is 3.761 Mha, out of which 3.345 Mha is effectively irrigated every year. The area irrigated by groundwater is 0.943 Mha while 2.402 Mha is served by surface water, of which 98500 ha is irrigated with transferred water, 24000 ha with return flows, 17000 ha with treated waste water and 551 ha is irrigated with desalinated water.


Various irrigation methods are used in the country. As per 1997 estimates, while 1.981 Mha are served by gravity iirrigation, 0,801 Mha use sprinkler irrigation and 0.563 Mha use micro irrigation systems. Being historically an old country, Spain has a long tradition of irrigated agriculture, as such many of the irrigation installations are very old. It is estimated that more than half of the present irrigation systems are over 40 years old, of which over 1 Mha are more than a century old. The National Irrigation Plan has therefore, considered improvement and rehabilitacion of some 2.035 Mha of irrigable land by the year 2008.


Special mention shall be made to the Spain's centenary experience in irrigation which has resulted in the present strong institutional network for water administration, management and equitable use, extending from the State to irrigation farmers whose associations or Irrigators Communities are world famous, as the almost millenial Water Tribunal of Valencia, and others, and are an example that has been taken as model by many other countries all the world over.

The quality of surface water is very good in general with local problems caused by salinity in the upper Guadiana region, in areas of Guadalquivir and Segura watersheds and also in coastal regions of Júcar and eastern Pyrenees basins, and in the south.


Status of Food


While the food availability in Spain is adequate, the dietary habits are changing. Some of the changes include a slow and gradual reduction in per capita of food, steady decrease in the consumption of bread, rice and cereal and their by-products and increased in meat consumption and increased consumption on dairy by-products. Food related industry accounts for 17.7 % of total Spanish industry production value and occupies 14.5 % of total industry labour. It also contributes to European Food Industry by 10.9 % of added value and 14.6 % of labour.


Artificial Recharge


The first recharge facilities in Spain were located in the surrounding districts of Barcelona, on the alluvial fans of the rivers Besos and Llobregat. Wells located in the latter delta region are used to recharge aquifers during some years, up to a maximum of 0.2 hm3/year using surplus water from a wastewater treatment plant. Other interesting experiences include those performed on the Island of Mallorca, in the Llano in Palma and the Boqueron in the Segura basin, etc.

Since 1984, a number of trials have been carried out in different areas of Spain. The results obtained are encouraging but, despite the use of artificial recharging, there is only a moderate hope to achieve a significant increase in the available resources of the country. However, artificial recharge may solve or mitigate some of the loccal problems, thus improving the water supply.




Sea water desalination has been used in Spain since 1969 for urban water supplies in Ceuta, Lanzarote, Fuertentura and Gran Canaria, all of them having in common the very poor avalability of water resources.


Overall, sea water desalination currently contributes to the hydrological cycle with some 2,22 hm3/year, which places Spain in the leading position in Europe, owing 30 % of the total desalination equipment installed in the whole continent. The adoption of new technologies and the steady reduction of water desalination costs is encouraging to use it for irrigation of high profitable crops which presently extends to some 1,000 ha.


Demand for water supply to populated areas


This includes water for domestic use (homes), municipal (garden irrigation, fire services, etc.), collective (public services such as hospitals and schools), industrial, commercial and even agricultural.


Tourism and second homes generate a significant demand for water in Spain, frequently surpassing by far the demand of the regular population during peak periods due to the use of public and private swimming pools and other high water consuming leisure facilities (golf courses, etc.)


Considering that Spain's current population is slightly more than 40 million, the total present water demand of populated areas is estimated to amount to some 4,667 hm3/year.


Demand for water for industrial use


Curent total demand for industries not connected to the municipal network is some 1,647 hm3/year. This does not include the volume consumed by small industries and services which are supplied by the municipal network and represents approximately 25 % of the total water registered by municipal meters, and is computed as a demand for urban supply.

Demand for water for agricultural use


As mentioned above, the water demand for agricultural use (irrigation) is for some 24,094 hm3 out of which more than half corresponds to the great basins of the rievers Ebro, Duero and Guadalquivir.


National Policies and Development Plans


The National Policies and development plans are guided by the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the institutional norms of the European Union, to which this country was incorporated in 1986. As a result of this, private enterprise has become the basic force behind economic and social development. Thus, the State performs a purely subsidiary planning function in the national economy. The agricultural policy is being defined by the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and entails continuous and prolonged adaptation to the GATT and WTO agreements facilitating two fundamental seemingly contradictory objectives: (1) maintenance of farmers' incomes (aimed to fix population to rural environment); and (2) the reduction of agricultural product prices (in order to keep them in fine with international prices). Recently, a National Irrigation Plan has been prepared, which provides for future plans of improving and modernizing of specific irrigation areas. There is also a National R&D Plan for the promotion of research and development which lays emphasis on bio-technology, protection of the environment, efficient use of water and rural development. This plan is coordinated by the inter-ministerial Commission of Science and Technology. The structuring element of hydraulic policy is the hydraulic planning which was legally introduced and regulated by the Water Act of 1985. In 1999 the Ministry of the Environment issued the White Book of Water in Spain which deals with water resources and water use in Spain. Also Basin Hydrological Plans for all Spanish basins have already been appoved, as well as the National Hydrological Plan (NHP) which homogenize the individual basin plans and defines the eventual water transfers from one basin to another in the future to balance the uneveness of natural resources distribution. It also contain details on the investments required for waste water purifying which are shared by all the four administration levels.


Challenges for the future


The entire Spanish society is committed to the task of consolidating and improving systems to be applied in order to achieve a sustainable and efficient exploitation of water resources available in the country. The new policy requires the public sector to place more emphasis on management through increased participation. It requires the water management to be wise, global and integral (holistic). The public sector will be required to be responsible for improving water quality in river beds by reducing specific kind of pollution and by promoting improvements in agricultural practice, to reduce the origin of non-point pollution.


The financing of new infrastructures will stem from previous direct participation by the beneficiaries and they should finance themselves with private funds in order to carry out new improvement and modernizing of irrigation projects. In light of agreement with Portugal no water conflicts of an international nature are envisaged. The common absences will be mainly as per the agreement. Some of the areas which will need attention include: climate change, sharing of economic water costs between social institutions, periodic droughts and conflict resolution on water issues.


ICID and Spain


Spain became the member of ICID in 1955 and since then has been actively participating in the activities of the Commission. Five members of the Spanish National Committee have been the Vice Presidents of ICID. They are: Mr. A. Peña Boeuf (1959-62); Dr. D. Diaz-Ambrona (1969-72); Dr. J.M. Martin-Mendiluce (1983-86); Dr. J.A. Ortiz F.-Urrutia (1991-94) and Mr. R. Segura-Graiño (1999-2002). Six of the experts from Committee are contributing to the work of 9 workbodies. The Spanish National Committee has organized various ICID events also: the 7th IEC Meeting, held in Madrid 1n 1956, 11th IEC Meeting and 4th Congress were organized in Madrid in 1960 and the 50th IEC and 17th Congress were organized in Granada in 1999, as well as the 4th, 10th and 14th ICID European Regional Conferences, respectively held in 1966, 1974 and 1986 in Las Palmas (Canary Islands), Seville and La Manga (Murcia). These events were highly successfully. Dr. José A. Ortiz Fdz.-Urrutia also contibutes Spanish version of the ICID News Update.



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