Recycled Sewage - A Water Resource for Dry Regions of Southeastern Spain


The latitude and layout of the Betic orography make southeastern Spain one of the driest climatic regions in Europe. Most of its territory is part of the Segura Hydrographic Demarcation (DHS). The DHS features a water resources vs water demands deficit equal to 480 hm3/year (1 hm3 = 100 m3) during the 2009–2015 hydrologic planning period. A new paradigm for water policy in Spain has emerged for the hydrological planning period (2016–2021), which calls for a greater contribution of unconventional resources (desalination and reuse of municipal sewage). The investment made in the DHS, in terms of sewage purification and regeneration, produces about 110 hm3/year of purified sewage annually. Irrigation is the main consumer of these reuse flows. Irrigation districts develop conveyance and storage infrastructure to import treated sewage from Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and Water Regeneration Stations (WRSs). Anthropogenically-caused climate change has brought additional stress on surface water and groundwater, thus making water recycling an important component of the water supply portofolio in Spanish arid regions. Recycled water increases the resources of semi-arid regions (up to 10% of total resources), like in the Southeast of Spain. It is of great social value as it contributes to water safety, economic dynamism and biodiversity. Investment made in this sector and public policies make possible the implementation of recycling system, turning this limited resource into a social, political and economic interest, reaching levels of 99.5% purified and 97% reused in Murcia. Similar regions could import this management system and the concessionary model of reclaimed water. In dry regions, these water management models make recycled water, rather than an alternative, a significant complement to local water resources.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Aldaya MM, Custodio E, García J, Fernández MF, Llamas MR (2017) Análisis académico del Plan Hidrológico de la Demarcación Hidrográfica del Segura 2015-2021 a la luz de modernos conceptos de la ciencia de los recursos del agua. Fundación Botín. 82 p

  2. EUROPEAN COMISSION (2016) [November 30, 2017]

  3. Gil E (2014) El Sureste peninsular. Rasgos de un medio semiárido como el de Pulpí y su entorno. In: El dinamismo del regadío de Pulpí. Comunidad de Regantes de Pulpí, Murcia

    Google Scholar 

  4. Gil A (2016) Acondicionamiento, rectificación y regulación del Segura. Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alicante, Alicante

    Google Scholar 

  5. Gleick P (2010) Roadmap for sustainable water resources in southwestern North America. Proc Natl Acad Sci (PNAS) 107(50):21300–21305

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Gómez JM (Coord.) (2017) El Trasvase Tajo-Segura. Propuestas para su continuidad y futuro. Editorial Académica Española, Saarbrucken

  7. Grant SB, Saphores JD, Feldman DL, Hamilton AJ, Fletcher TD, Cook PLM, Stewardson M, Sanders BF, Levin LA, Ambrose RF, Deletic A, Brown R, Jiang SC, Rosso D, Cooper WJ, Marusic I (2012) Taking the “waste” out of “wastewater” for human water security and ecosystem sustainability. Science 337:681–686

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Leverenz HL, Tchobanoglous G, Asano T (2011) Direct potable reuse: a future imperative. Journal of Water Reuse and Desalination 01(1):2–10

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Loáiciga HA (2015) Managing municipal water supply and use in water-starved regions: looking ahead. J Water Resour Plan Manag 141(1):01814003/1–01814003/4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. McCann B (2012) Wastewater reuse brings life back to Spain’s Segura river. Water 21:28–33

    Google Scholar 

  11. McDonnell RA (2014) Circulations and transformations of energy and water in Abu Dhabi’s hydrosocial cycle. Geoforum 57:225–233

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Melgarejo J, Gómez I (2016) Depuración y reutilización de aguas en España. Agua y Territorio 8:22–35

    Google Scholar 

  13. Mujeriego R (1994) La reutilización planificada del agua: elemento básico de la gestión de los recursos hidráulicos. In: Recursos hidrogeológicos y recursos hidráulicos no convencionales. Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Transporte y Medio Ambiente, Madrid

    Google Scholar 

  14. Qadir M, Wichelns D, Raschid-Sally L, McCornick PG, Drechsel P, Bahri A, Minhas PS (2010) The challenges of wastewater irrigation in developing countries. Agric Water Manag 97:561–568

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Rico AM, Olcina J, Paños V, Baños C (1998) Depuración, desalación y reutilización de aguas en España. Oikos-Tau, Barcelona

    Google Scholar 

  16. Ródenas MA (2002) La reutilización del recurso. La Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura (1926–2001). 75° Aniversario. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, CHS, Murcia

    Google Scholar 

  17. Ródenas MA, Albacete M (2014) The river Segura: reclaimed water, recovered river. Journal of Water Reuse and Desalination 4(1):50–57

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Rodríguez JP, De Caldas FJ (2009) Selección técnico–económica del sistema de depuración de aguas residuales. Tecnología del Agua 306:22–31

    Google Scholar 

  19. Rygaard M, Binning PJ, Albrechtsen HJ (2011) Increasing urban water self-sufficiency: new era, new challenges. J Environ Manag 92:185–194

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Scruggs CE, Thomson BM (2017) Opportunities and challenges for direct potable water reuse in arid inland communities. J Water Resour Plan Manag 143(10)

  21. Sowers J, Vengosh A, Weinthal E (2011) Climate change, water resources, and the politics of adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa. Clim Chang 104:599–627

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Trapote A (2016) Tecnologías de depuración y reutilización: nuevos enfoques. Agua y Territorio 8:48–60

    Google Scholar 

  23. UNITED NATIONS (2015) Sustainable development goals. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 [November 3, 2018]

  24. UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISION (2017) [November 30, 2017]

Download references


Dr. Hugo A. Loáiciga of the University of California at Santa Barbara provided valuable recommendations for the writing of this work.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Miguel Borja Bernabé-Crespo.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest


Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gil-Meseguer, E., Bernabé-Crespo, M.B. & Gómez-Espín, J.M. Recycled Sewage - A Water Resource for Dry Regions of Southeastern Spain. Water Resour Manage 33, 725–737 (2019).

Download citation


  • Recycled water
  • Purification
  • Sewage reuse
  • Sewage
  • Segura hydrographic demarcation
  • Southeastern Spain