Water Resources in Spain

A Hot Tip about Water Treatment in Spain

Posted on: 24 Feb 2010


The world environmental market is concentrated in three main areas: the United States, Europe and Japan. The United States represents 40 percent and Europe 32 percent of the market. This high percentage is mainly due to the early development of European environmental norms and complementary administrative control. In Spain, as in all European Union (EU) countries, the environmental sector is governed by EU regulations. The Spanish environmental market is worth almost three percent of the worldwide environmental market and nine percent of the European environmental market.


Spain’s growth over the last 15 years has placed even greater pressure on the environment in use of natural resources (e.g. water and oil) and pollution. Spanish government policy includes increasing the environmental budget to promote environmental protection. The 2008 environmental budget increased nine percent from the previous year, to nearly USD 6 billion.


Best Prospects/Services

Demand for equipment, technology and services is high from both the government and private sector. To meet growing water demand, the Spanish Government is undertaking a large public works program to change its national water system and significantly increase the number of desalination plants. This multi-billion euro program will be partly funded by the European Union. Opportunities exist for U.S. engineering and water treatment equipment and service firms.


Fines are imposed on contaminating industries through central, regional and local governments. These penalties force Spanish industries to look for environmentally safer technologies and pollution-control equipment to treat emissions and industrial waste. As a result, opportunities exist for U.S. environmental companies in this market.



Resources allocated during recent years underscore Spain’s commitment to this sector. The Spanish Government’s environmental budget is almost USD 6 billion. The Spanish Ministry of Environment estimates that the environmental market in Spain has grown an average of 14 percent in recent years.


Public investment will concentrate on water projects. Investment in conventional water infrastructure is decreasing, counterbalanced by increases in treatment, re-use and desalination projects as well as protection of the natural environment. Highest priority is given to urban and agricultural uses, followed by the ecological needs of aquatic ecosystems.


The previous Spanish national water plan, the 2001 “Plan Hidrológico Nacional” (National Hydrological Plan), intended to bring water from well-supplied northern areas of Spain to areas most affected by drought and expansion of demand. This plan was partially revised when the Spanish government changed in 2004. Some environmentalists had objected to the 2001 plan, which entailed building dams in untouched areas of the Spanish countryside. Moreover, the European Parliament opposed funding, arguing the original plan contradicted existing objectives of the European Union pertaining to water usage.


The current government developed a new program called “Programa A.G.U.A,” (Actuaciones para la Gestión y la Utilización del Agua - Water Management and Use Actions), which will replace some of the actions initially planned in the 2001 Hydrological National Plan. The A.G.U.A. Program plans to obtain water from rivers and the ocean, as well to better re-use treated wastewater. More than 20 percent of the projected actions under this program are desalination projects. Almost 50 percent of the water resulting from the A.G.U.A. Program will come from desalination, more than 20 percent from wastewater re-use actions, 15 percent from irrigation systems modernization, and 15 percent from other efficiency improvements. The A.G.U.A. Program’s predicted costs for these interventions are Euros 3.9 billion (USD 5.4 billion), out of which the European Union will finance 33 percent.


A National Irrigation Plan (PNR) for 2001 to 2008, has a budget of Euros 5 billion (USD 6.9 billion) for improving water efficiency. Irrigation accounts for 80 percent of total water consumption in Spain, which has the largest irrigated acreage of any EU country (33,400 km²). Therefore, it is logical that efforts to increase more sustainable use of water are being made. This plan addresses the modernization of existing irrigation systems, involving 2,400 km² of disadvantaged rural areas, infrastructure and equipment. In each autonomous region, the regional government will decide the new location of irrigation land. One PNR objective is to reduce water losses by 2.7 billion m³ per year, to counteract the current total growth water demand of 23.5 billion m³.


Spain has also taken many steps to deal with air pollutant emissions and to reinforce its air quality management system. The Ministry of Environment has approved the “Vehiculos Fuera de Uso (VFU)”, 2007-2015 end-of-life vehicles plan, continuing and improving methods of the previous 2001-2006 plan. The Ministry’s goal is to establish suitable management of vehicles, decontamination, reusability and automobile-waste recycling. By 2015, 85 percent of vehicles are to be recycled. To achieve this, investments of Euros 325 million (USD 448 million) are anticipated. The VFU Plan fulfills both Spanish and EU legislative mandates in this area. Most of this investment will be undertaken by the private sector, in application of the principle of responsibility of the producer and the regulating European Directive 2000/53/CE regarding management of this type of waste.


The European Union has restricted use of certain dangerous materials in electrical equipment, and Spain passed echoing legislation regarding Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Restriction of Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) on January 25, 2005. This legislation applies to manufacturers, importers, distributors and users of all categories of electric and electronic equipment. It requires safe elimination or reusability of electrical equipment. The directive went into full effect on July 1, 2006, banning lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, cadmium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBBS) and polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDES), all of which are deemed to present risks to the environment and public health during manufacturing or final elimination of the product. Many companies will be forced to make their products with substitute materials.


Concerning nature and biodiversity management, Spain is intent on following the new “Red Natura 2000” (Natura 2000 Network) program applicable to all EU members. This program foresees 25 percent of the territory of Spain and Europe being protected. In the case of Spain, municipalities will be in charge of nature management, leading to an increase in the total amount of protected areas. Protected areas in Spain represent 9.6 percent of the territory, in comparison with the OECD average of 14.6 percent. Although Spain increased protected areas by more than 50 percent between 1994 and 2001, this new plan will increase Spanish nature conservation.


Spain has adopted environmental plans and developed ecological laws and regulations in line with EU environmental directives since 1993. In addition to the central government, 17 Spanish autonomous or regional governments issue environmental laws and regulations that are mandatory for their territories. The regional governments incorporate laws issued by the central government as well as EU directives. Giving responsibility to autonomous regions and municipalities should facilitate implementation of environmental policies and help build public support. It should also increase costeffectiveness by allowing differentiation in standards to reflect differences in ecosystems and use of natural resources.


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Posted: 24 February 2010