Towards IWRM in the upper Guadiana basin, Spain
ABSTRACT: The upper Guadiana basin provides an example of the difficulties involved in the practical implementation of IWRM and, more specifically, the need to deal with the burdens of the past. From the 1950s, wetlands were dried up in order to reclaim land for agricultural development. In the 1970s, based on the ancient private water abstraction rights from the XIX century water law, the advances in well drilling and pumping technologies contributed to the spread of intensive groundwater irrigation in the area. For decades, intensive groundwater use contributed to social and economic development. On the other hand, it also caused the water table to drop to the point that surface and groundwater bodies became disconnected. This had an adverse effect on riverine wetlands, as well as on Ramsar-protected wetlands such as the ‘Las Tablas de Daimiel National Park’ and, by and large, on UNESCO’s ‘Mancha Humeda Biosphere Reserve’. From 1987, a variety of plans, measures and laws have been implemented, including the EU Water Framework Directive. The last three decades have also witnessed dry and wet cycles, running parallel to continuous conflicts and negotiations between the main water users – irrigators – and water authorities. This chapter provides a description of the water management frameworks that have been in place since the 1950s, to show how social conflicts, economic interests and environmental protection play a part in integrated water resources management.