River Restoration in Spain: Theoretical and Practical Approach in the Context of the European Water Framework Directive

Abstract

River restoration is becoming a priority in many countries because of increasing the awareness of environmental degradation. In Europe, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) has significantly reinforced river restoration, encouraging the improvement of ecological status for water bodies. To fulfill the WFD requirements, the Spanish Ministry of the Environment developed in 2006 a National Strategy for River Restoration whose design and implementation are described in this paper. At the same time many restoration projects have been conducted, and sixty of them have been evaluated in terms of stated objectives and pressures and implemented restoration measures. Riparian vegetation enhancement, weir removal and fish passes were the most frequently implemented restoration measures, although the greatest pressures came from hydrologic alteration caused by flow regulation for irrigation purposes. Water deficits in quantity and quality associated with uncontrolled water demands seriously affect Mediterranean rivers and represent the main constraint to achieving good ecological status of Spanish rivers, most of them intensively regulated. Proper environmental allocation of in-stream flows would need deep restrictions in agricultural water use which seem to be of very difficult social acceptance. This situation highlights the need to integrate land-use and rural development policies with water resources and river management, and identifies additional difficulties in achieving the WFD objectives and good ecological status of rivers in Mediterranean countries.

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Acknowledgments

The National Strategy was formulated under two administrative contracts between the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the Ministry of the Environment in 2006 and 2007. The review of restoration projects corresponds to FORECASTER project results (IWRM-NET CGL2008-03082-E/BTE). The authors express their recognition to Cristina Narbona, Jaime Palop, Jesús Yague, Ricardo Segura, Luis Babiano and Javier Sánchez from the Ministry of the Environment for their political and administrative support. M. Aldaguer, I. Doadrio, R. Garilleti, D. Gómez Orea, M. Gutiérrez, F. Lara, I. Lastra, M. Múgica, A. Ollero, I. Rodríguez, R. Romeo, R. Sánchez-Navarro and J. Serrano coordinated the working groups with remarkable effort and positive results.

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González del Tánago, M., García de Jalón, D. & Román, M. River Restoration in Spain: Theoretical and Practical Approach in the Context of the European Water Framework Directive. Environmental Management 50, 123–139 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-012-9862-1

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Keywords

  • River restoration
  • Spain
  • Water framework directive
  • Water resources management
  • Forecaster
  • National strategy