Draft Spanish water law gets green light

Cabinet approves proposals for integrated water resource management law

The Spanish cabinet on Friday approved a major draft law aimed at introducing a new fully-integrated legal framework for water management. Formal government backing for the national hydrological plan ends a year-and-a-half of indecision after a white paper was published in late 1998 (ENDS Daily 4 January 1999). It is due to come before parliament early next year.

Under the government's proposal, the hydrological plan will have a budget of about euros 18m (SPtas3bn). According to environment minister Jaume Matas, nearly 85% will go towards water saving and environmental management of resources, mostly on modernising irrigation systems, water channelling, urban supply and wastewater treatment. Around half the total budget will come from national government and EU funds, 40% from private capital and 10% from local government.

The vexed issue of inter-regional water transfers has been and is likely to remain the draft law's most controversial point. Although the law does not currently require equitable redistribution, the government has called on Spain's national water council to debate the issue this autumn. The dry regions of Murcia and Valencia have been enthusiastic about the draft law, while the regional government of Aragón, which is wetter, has already warned that it will oppose any attempt to transfer water from its own basins.

Greenpeace's Spanish office vehemently attacked the draft law, claiming it would do nothing to reduce water consumption in absolute terms and would actually increase the area of irrigated farmland in Spain's driest regions. Eva Hernández of Greenpeace complained that agriculture already consumed 80% of national water resources and that the government's plan would likely lead to construction of even more dams, which it objects to.

Follow Up:
Spanish environment ministry, tel: +34 91 597 6000, and environment ministry pages on hydraulics and water quality; Greenpeace Spain, tel: +34 91 444 1400.

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