Greenpeace-Spain released the report this week, saying it is the first river basin-by-river basin study of the country’s water resources.

It found that only 11% of the country’s surface waters meet the ecological criteria of the directive, meaning that they are capable of cleaning themselves, or being self regulating; while only 16% of Spain’s ground waters meet the standards or have a suitable chemical make-up to be used for either irrigation or water supply.

Spain is currently facing court action for not producing an official report into water quality by river basin, or designating river basin authorities as required under the terms of the water framework directive.

Industrial pollution as well as municipal waste dumps were found to be responsible for much of the problems in surface waters, while diffuse pollution from agricultural and urban run off was found to be affecting many of the country’s aquifers.

Around half of all dam waters in Spain were found to be suffering from eutrophication as a result of nitrogen and phosphate pollution from agricultural run off.

The report also highlighted the damaging ecological impact that wasteful overuse of water for irrigation, and tourist practices such as golf courses, was having.

Large rivers such as El Jucar and El Segora are now drying up, and, the report says, sometimes not even reaching the sea.

These problems have also been compounded by the severe drought which has affected most areas of Europe. In Spain, this has found the relatively water-rich central provinces being forced to share their water with neighbouring regions.

This has caused a lot of tension as even normally water-rich areas like Castilla-La Mancha have had their reservoirs depleted to as little as a third of normal capacity.

Earlier this year, environment minister Cristina Narbona proposed building desalination plants on the coast to ease the country’s water crisis.

David Hopkins

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