WFD Implementation Problems – the Ebro (1)


The Ebro – The River Ebro is the third longest river in the Mediterranean, after the Rhone and the Nile, passing through 9 nine Autonomous Communities before flowing into the Mediterranean sea where it forms the Ebro Delta (Catalonia).

The intense use of its water throughout the Ebro Basin puts the river under strong pressure and affects its ecological functionality. The Delta is the most vulnerable part of the river, altered by the drastic reduction of water and sediment flows. Most of the Delta is a National Park, recognized as being of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. It is a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPAB – 79/409/CEE), a Community Interest Area (CIA – 85/337/EEC) and, furthermore, it is currently under review to be declared a Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO).

The Spanish government is deliberately avoiding the Water Framework Directive objectives.

Social groups and other interested actors in the lower Ebro river basin have worked intensely over the last 10 years in an attempt to ensure that the Water Framework Directive is implemented correctly with regards to the new River Basin Plan, to guarantee future quality and availability of water resources.

However, we have come up time and time again against the lack of will of the Spanish administration to comply with the Directive, with serious delays on the planned schedule leading to legal action and fines being placed against Spain.

Public declarations by the Spanish Agriculture and Environment Minister, and by irrigation farming communities, show that the “hidden agenda” of the government is to continue the present policy of water offer to the highest bidders, ignoring the WFD’s idea to set minimum flows for rivers before “sharing out” the water.

Yet one more of our concerns is the over-allocation of the river’s resources as seen in the Blueprint report. We believe the Spanish government must review and modify retroactively each and every water concession which would, otherwise, make the environmental objectives of the WFD unattainable. These water rights are illegitimate as they have not taken into account the necessary conditions of environmental river flows as stipulated in EU Directives. This repeated awarding of water concessions goes against the aim of a sustainable plan for the Ebro, and will make it extremely complicated to fulfill these aims in the future.

Economic fraud

This River Basin Plan (RBMP) will cost Spanish citizens about 800 M€/year for the 6 year period of this plan, but no cost-benefit analysis has been made, so it is impossible to know if any of these investments will effectively improve environmental quality in the basin or who is really benefitting from them. Economic accounts are extremely obscure, as the RBMP admits: “in many cases the identification of costs and revenues in the Ebro Basin are a mere estimation”. They also state that “the proliferation of public and private companies involved in water management in the basin, are an obstacle for the transparency of accountability of investments”.

As a consequence, cost recovery is just as obscure as the general accounts. Estimated data in the RBMP is not realistic and according to our analysis this is actually limited to less than 10% of real investment costs. No auditing is ever done to verify if public money is properly spent and we detected different accounting “tricks” which overrate infrastructure’s yields and undervalues their total cost.

Indeed, environmental costs are identified as the costs of environmental measures, which lead to false figures, “end of the pipe” solutions and does not identify the actors who determine the pressures. Therefore, this RBMP doesn’t respect the “polluter pays” principle nor does it use economic tools to enhance environmentally better practices in the Basin.


0938/2012 – Given this, the social movement, the Plataforma en Defensa de l’Ebre (Ebro defense group) and Coordinadora Anti-transvasaments have presented Petition 0938/2012 to the European Parliament and we hope to be able to defend this Petition in a Parliamentary session in the upcoming weeks/months.
The technical background of this petition indicates the infringement of, at least, the following directives: 2000/60/CE WFD, 79/409/CEE Birds, 92/43/CEE Habitat, 2005/35/EC Environmental liability, 2001/42/CE EIA, 91/676/CEE Nitrates, 2008/56/CE Sea

The Euorpean Parliament accepted our petition passing it on to the Commission for analysis, which states that it is aware of Spanish infringement on RBMP publication and recognizes the importance of environmental flows, but explains that potential violations may be evaluated only after adoption and reporting of the RBMP.
In our vision this is an unnecessary and inefficient waste of the Commission’s time and resources, as it allows the Spanish government to gain time for “fait accompli” policies, i.e. infrastructures and water concessions which go against WFD objectives will be finished before the Plan’s publication.

Prevention is better and easier than curing!

Therefore we ask you, Members of the European Parliament to take political action before the Ebro RBMP’s approval. Now is the time for the European Commission to intervene, with a direct control over the elaboration of this Basin Plan – ensuring a correct Plan and that no un-repairable damage is carried out in the meantime.

The Ebro and both its environmental social impact make it the biggest “test case” for all European rivers and this battle is key to the future credibility of European environmental policies.

Read @ DMA Delta Ebre

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