06.09.04 : Seas Only Hope
for World Water Supply, Says Spain (Reuters)
MADRID - The world's fast-growing thirst for water
can only be met by purifying sea water as rivers and reservoirs
become unable to meet demand, Spain said last week unveiling a
major program to fight its own chronic shortages.
Spain's Socialist government, elected in March,
has ditched plans to reroute the country's longest river to irrigate
its parched southeast, saying it would harm fragile wetlands in
the north, cost too much and not provide enough water anyway.
Under new proposals, a variety of smaller schemes to improve existing
infrastructure and build desalination plants would provide 1,063
cubic hectometers of water - or just under three percent of Spain's
consumption - much of it for agriculture and tourism along the
"Sea water, experts tell us, is the water
of the future for humanity because continental fresh water will
increasingly suffer from problems of scarcity, pollution and supply,"
Narbona told a news conference, saying Spain aimed to be at the
vanguard of desalination techniques.
Spain, which suffers annual water shortages, has
been using the technology for 30 years and has 700 such plants
- making it the world's fifth highest consumer.
The new program will cost an estimated 3.8 billion
euros. Spain's proposals received a warm welcome from EU Environment
Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and Madrid hopes the European Union
will cover up to 1.26 billion euros of its cost.
The first water under the new scheme is expected
to flow in 2005, the minister said. To accompany the plan, the
government will launch a campaign to educate Spaniards on the
importance of conserving water.
It will also attempt to classify more accurately
how water is used in Spain, one of Europe's most arid countries
where summer demand is swelled by millions of tourists who pack
its sweltering coastal resorts.
Under the new scheme, water will be priced according
to its intended use: farmers will face the lowest charges, with
industry paying a little more and tourist facilities and golf
courses paying the most.
The government hopes the energy-intensive desalination
plants could be powered, at least in part, by renewable energy.
After consultation with the private sector, Narbona said this
could require additional research which could be funded by the
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
RAMSAR - PROCEEDINGS OF RIVER RESTORATION CONFERENCE
From 17 to 21 May 2004 there took place in Zagreb,
Croatia's capital, the 3rd international conference of the European
Centre for River Restoration (ECRR), organised jointly with Croatian
Waters (Hrvatske Vode), the national water management authority.
Nearly 40 conference papers are focused upon river restoration
as part of integrated water management. The well-illustrated proceedings
are available in hard-cover form from the ECRR secretariat, hosted
by the Wetland Development and Restoration Department of the Dutch
Institute for Water Management RIZA in Lelystad, or can be downloaded,
chapter by chapter, from this site: www.ecrr.org.
source Ramsar via EUROPEAN WATER MANAGEMENT NEWS
25.08.04: Commission Statement
on Opening of Bystroye Canal in Ukraine
The European Commission deeply regrets the reported
opening to navigation of the initial part of the Bystroye canal
between the River Danube and the Black Sea. The canal route goes
through a specially protected UNESCO World Heritage area in the
Danube Delta which is also subject to the international Ramsar
Convention on the protection of wetlands.
Commission President Romano Prodi and External
Relations Commissioner Chris Patten had already expressed their
serious concerns during the recent EU-Ukraine Summit of 8 July.
These concerns included the lack of a comprehensive Environmental
Impact Assessment for the construction project, and the Commission
had asked Ukraine to halt the works pending a full assessment.
The concerns were also conveyed twice in writing by Environment
Commissioner Margot Wallström to the Ukrainian authorities
and in the margins of the recent Danube Cooperation Process meeting
of Foreign Ministers in Bucharest.
The Commission reiterates its position and would
welcome receiving reassurances from the Ukrainian Government confirming
its intention not to proceed further with this project pending
preparation of a proper Environmental Impact Assessment to international
standards, including the appropriate public consultation and an
evaluation of the transboundary impact.
Arguments and more informations:
http://www.ecopravo.lviv.ua/a_spv_Dunaj_k.htm (russ, ukr,
19.08.04: International organizations
accept 'environmental flows' as solution to social conflict
Stockholm, Sweden, 19 August 2004 (IUCN) - A range
of international organizations today accepted 'environmental flows'
as the tool to ward off social conflict and environmental degradation
due to the overuse of water in the river basins of the world.
The endorsement was received at a special session at the 14th
World Water Week underway in Stockholm.
'We believe the implementation of environmental
flows is a necessary step to increase water security,' said Mr.
Anders Bertell, Executive Director of the Stockholm International
Water Institute, host of the conference.
The acceptance by the international community
in Stockholm of 'environmental flows' is a major milestone because
it demonstrates that 'environmental flows' has become widely accepted
as a standard tool in modern water management.
"We commend the work of IUCN on environmental
flows and are currently reviewing ways to contribute to negotiated
approaches to water allocation," said Mr. M. Gopalakrishnan,
Secretary General of the International Commission on Irrigation
'Environmental flows' means that water in rivers
is managed in such a way that downstream users and ecosystems
receive enough water to remain 'in business'. It entails negotiations
between water users, based on an understanding of the impacts
their water use has on others, and on their natural environment.
"IUCN is already working in ten basins around
the world to implement this approach, and with this endorsement
we are confident that number will multiply in coming years. That
is good news for everyone who depends on water, including nature,"
said Dr Ger Bergkamp of the IUCN Water and Nature Initiative.
This practical tool enables water managers to
move from a situation of uncontrolled use of and conflict over
water, to use of water that is rational and negotiated. In a time
where some rivers no longer reach the sea and others suffer from
increasing social conflict and environmental destruction because
of excessive water use, such a tool is of vital importance. Furthermore,
in poor countries, where millions of people are dependent on what
nature provides, environmental flows clearly contributes to poverty
Experience with environmental flows in various
basins also shows that it is wise to start implementation before
social and environmental problems arise. Early application of
the tool saves money and ensures long-term prosperity in river
basins, as the experience from Australia shows.
"In the Murray Darling Basin, Australian
Governments are now investing 500 million Australian dollars to
return the system to environmentally sustainable levels of extraction.
These are costs that can be saved if one applies environmental
flows earlier", said Mr. John Scanlon, Head of the IUCN Environmental
The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI),
the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID),
the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Environmental
Facility (GEF) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) all
endorsed the approach and said they would use it in future.
About environmental flows
More information on the concept and its application can be found
in the IUCN guidebook 'Flow - the essentials of environmental
flows', which is now widely recognised as the most comprehensive
state-of-the-art guide on the topic.
The book can be downloaded directly from http://iucn.org/themes/wani/pub/FLOW.pdf http://iucn.org/themes/wani/pub/FLOW.pdf
or through http://www.waterandnature.org/flow/main.html
Dr. Ger Bergkamp Coordinator Water & Nature
IUCN - The World Conservation Union +41.79.615.0479
Mr. Elroy Bos Senior Communication Officer
IUCN - The World Conservation Union +188.8.131.5270
Created in 1948, IUCN - The World Conservation
Union brings together 78 states, 107 government agencies, 750-plus
NGOs, 34 affiliates, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from
181 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. IUCN's mission
is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the
world to con-serve the integrity and diversity of nature and to
ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically
IUCN is the world's largest environmental knowledge
network and has helped over 75 countries to prepare and implement
national conservation and biodiversity strategies. IUCN is a multi-cultural,
multilingual organization with 1000 staff located in 42 countries.
Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.
Spain: A turnaround in water management (WWF )
It was huge, immensely dangerous, the biggest
of its kind ever proposed. Threatening livelihoods and ecosystems,
it ignored environmental directives and mocked the idea of spending
public money responsibly. Spains Ebro Transfer a
network of dams and pipes that would carry 1,050 cubic hectometres
of water per year out of the Ebro River Basin into four other
river systems thousands of kilometres away had to be stopped.
The situation called for dramatic and determined action, and thats
what it got. For three years, hundreds of thousands of people
gathered at massive demonstrations throughout the country. Fifteen
thousand Spaniards travelled to Brussels to demonstrate against
their country receiving EU funds for the project. Public meetings,
leaflets, concerts, fiestas, giant flamingo puppets, even a paella
competition all these and more helped spur action against
the national governments cavalier water grab.
I have always had an interest in environmental and social
issues, explains local activist Brian Cutts, but I
had never been involved in anything so incredible before.
In April this year, Spains newly elected Prime Minister
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced that the Ebro Transfer
will be repealed and that a review of the SNHP may stop some specific
infrastructures, replacing them with more efficient, cheaper,
and less disputed projects.
SNHP is the controversial Spanish National Hydrological Plan,
approved by the previous government in 2001. The Ebro Transfer
was a key part of the plan, which aimed to redistribute Spains
water through massive engineering projects.
Zapateros announcement has given campaigners
some breathing space, but more importantly, it offers an opportunity
to change the direction of water management in Europe.
It also offers us a golden opportunity to make use of the
beauty of the Ebro Delta to promote some kind of sustainable ecotourism,
Holiday in the sun
A magnet for sun seekers, southern Spain boasts over 300 days
of sunshine a year. With an average annual rainfall as low as
250mm, a cloud-free holiday is practically guaranteed.
At Costa Blanca, Costa Brava, Costa del Sol, and other evocatively
named locations, the Mediterranean seaside is encrusted with resorts
catering to holidaymakers, and more are planned. Irrigation supports
flowers, fruits, vegetables, olives, and vineyards, which flourish
in the warm weather and feed a lucrative export market.
Its a familiar Mediterranean scene: just add water and you
But the need for water can drown out common sense. And this is
how the plan arose to siphon off some of the abundant water of
Spains north and send it to the parched but sunny south
where it could support year-round greenhouse agriculture,
sparkling swimming pools, and emerald golf courses.
Close to nature
Northern Spain receives up to 950mm of rain annually, and its
here that the Ebro River arises. One of the longest rivers on
the Iberian Peninsula, it flows out of the Cantabrian mountains
through Catalunyas Rioja wine region and on to the Mediterranean.
Midway between Barcelona and Valencia the river spreads out to
into a magnificent delta.
The Ebro Delta is incredible, its another world,
says WWF campaigner Paloma Agrasot.
Noted as an Important Bird Area, listed as a wetland of international
importance under the Ramsar Convention, and part of the EUs
protected Natura 2000 network, the delta is an 8,000-ha mosaic
of sand dunes, salt lagoons, and rice cultivation. About 300 bird
species 60 per cent of all species found in Europe
rest, nest, or feed here. Bird counts have recorded up to 180,000
Bigger than flamingos
Changes to the rivers flow would threaten the nests of some
30,000 pairs of waterbirds, including those of the charismatic
greater flamingo. But the potential for disaster was considerably
larger than a flock of big pink birds.
Deltas are ephemeral landforms. The Ebro Delta requires an estimated
1.32 million cubic metres of sediment per year just to maintain
its current condition.
Existing dams have already reduced the amount of sediment carried
by the river. Further dam building would cause irreversible erosion
damage, affect fish migration, and, by diminishing the flow of
freshwater nutrients, kill off fish living in the delta.
In addition, the proposed infrastructure works would affect riparian
forests and other habitats, threaten the survival of the endangered
Iberian lynx, and facilitate the spread of feral fish and other
aquatic organisms, such as zebra mussels listed by the
IUCNThe World Conservation Union as one of the worlds
100 worst invasive alien species and already found in the Ebro
between river basins.
People too would suffer.
I could see the balance between river level and sea level
would have been lost, creating serious saliniation problems and
affecting the future of our crops, says rice farmer Jordi
Prats. The economic development of this area would have
suffered a severe blow.
Scientific research also showed that for every cubic metre of
Ebro water that failed to reach the Mediterranean, an estimated
200kg less of sardines could be fished from the waters
a blow to the areas important fishery.
I have already noticed a slowing down to local economies
in the region, adds Cutts. For many years, young people
have had to move to large cities to find work. The population
of most towns is ageing. The only chance for future livelihoods
depends on the areas natural resources and the principal
one is the river and its delta. So the transfer would have been
the final nail in the coffin.
A worrying precedent
The Ebro Transfer would not have been Spains first project
to move water from one river basin to another. A case study of
an earlier transfer from the Tajo River into the Segura basin
shows worrying consequences.
Since the works were completed in 1973, water
demands and fertiliser and pesticide use have increased in the
Segura River Basin, while reduced flow in the Tajo means the river
is unable to keep pace with effluents pouring in from Madrid.
The middle Tajo is so severely polluted that its unfit even
to provide irrigation water. And the Segura, which was to benefit
from the transfer, now has the dubious distinction of being the
most polluted river in Spain, and possibly in Europe.
Problems, not solutions
By not addressing basic issues of water management, the Tajo Transfer
created far more problems than it solved. This looked certain
to be repeated in the Ebro Transfer, with illegal boreholes and
unsustainable development proposals already proliferating in areas
set to receive water.
And how fresh would the transferred water be? As with
many rivers flowing through agricultural and urbanized areas,
the lower Ebro is polluted and saline. Below Zaragoza, where the
proposed diversionary dams would have been installed, the water
is undrinkable without treatment. Thats in a good year.
In drought years, which could occur more frequently according
to climate change modelling, water in the expensively constructed
pipes could be not just dirty, but barely trickling.
In fact, with its reliance on dams and transfers, much of the
SNHP is a yesterdays plan. Despite huge advances in scientific
understanding of riverine ecology, which are reflected in EU policies
such as the Water Framework Directive and the Global Water Initiative,
water is still treated as a commodity: something to be bought,
sold, and transported. The full value of water and the ecosystems
it underpins is rarely considered, and water is not given a real
price that reflects environmental values as well as all the costs
of treatment and delivery.
We havent seen a good analysis of water needs in this
situation, Schmidt observes. If you ask how
much water do you want? of course the answer is as
much as we can get. If you ask how much water do you
want at this price? youll get a different answer.
Illegal as well
The Ebro Transfer also contravened several EU Directives and UNESCOs
International Hydrological Programme (IHP). Five IHP criteria
specifically related to inter-basin transfers state that there
must be no reasonable alternatives in the area receiving the water
transfer, the resources in the area of origin must be adequate,
there must be no substantial environmental damage or cultural
disruption, and the benefits must be shared equitably between
the donor and receiver areas. None of these criteria were met.
The money grab
At first glance, prices on Ebro water looked good, largely because
the money was coming out of someone elses pocket. Project
finances depended heavily on EU Structural Funds that is,
money from EU taxpayers.
Devastating enough as a local issue, the Ebro Transfer took on
much wider implications. Allowing it to go ahead using EU funds
would set a precedent that would spread the devastation well beyond
One of the earliest and most outspoken critics of the Ebro Transfer
and SNHP is Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, a physicist and economics professor
at the University of Zaragoza. Winner of the 2003 Goldman Environmental
Prize for Europe, Arrojo says the plan is cynically aimed
at using public money to build a gigantic system which would only
profit financial speculators, luxury tourist installations, and
Accountability and cooperation
Realising the scope of the issue, campaigners worked to stop the
Ebro Transfer by demanding clear accountability in the EU funding
It is important that countries follow EU legislation and
water directives in developing projects, says Agrasot. It
is also essential that the EU has the capacity to assess and monitor
projects, and stop any that contravene EU legislation. The process
must be clear and manageable, especially with the influx of new
countries joining the EU.
International NGOs such as WWF lobbied the EU to demand that funding
go only to projects that meet EU standards.
Local platforms, outspoken and determined, kept the issue in front
of the public. People from affected areas knocked on EU doors,
walked in, and began talking about the reality of their lives
and what they would lose if the transfer went ahead. The European
Commission received more letters on this than on any previous
On top of this, scientists provided information on the effects
of climate change, weather patterns, loss of biodiversity, and
movement of feral species.
Strategic campaigning and lobbying combined with good scientific
research was extremely effective, says Schmidt. This
was a tremendous cooperative effort.
The next proposal
Following the April announcement, the Spanish government announced
an alternative plan on 18 June to replace the Ebro Transfer project.
The activists are not relaxing yet.
The new plan is better, says Schmidt, but a
lot more could be done.
Now the transfer has been stopped, I believe everything
will be better, says Prats. But we cant sit
back and relax with our arms folded. The future of these lands
still needs ideas and work. Politicians have a huge responsibility
to channel the effort of citizens and put them to good use.
The Ebro activists are now pushing for a new water culture. This
is a powerful opportunity for the new government to review all
the old SNHP proposals and develop projects that are sustainable.
Encouragingly, Spains new Minister of Environment, Cristina
Narbona Ruiz, has already met with environmental NGOs.
Arrojo and others are advocating sustainable water planning that
includes recycling, waste reduction, and water quality improvements.
Fixing leaky pipes, planting crops which dont require irrigation,
revegetating river banks: these are all alternatives which could
be cheaper and more effective in the short term than massive dam
building projects and far more beneficial in the long term.
The world is changing, says Schmidt, and this
success is a kick-off point for starting a whole new discussion
on how to manage water.
And as no stranger to arid conditions, Spain is well-positioned
to take the lead.
* Saren Starbridge is a freelance writer.
WWF's work on the Ebro Transfer and SNHP
Over the last three years, WWF and other NGOs and civil society
organizations have been campaigning against the Ebro transfer,
the most destructive project of the SNHP. WWF welcomes the new
Spanish governments announcement to stop the Ebro river
transfer, and is continuing work to ensure that the new governments
revised Spanish National Hydrological Plan (SNHP) does not cause
serious environmental, social, or economic losses.
The Ebro Delta
The Ebro Delta is one of the most important areas of the Natura
2000 Network in the European Union, designated as Special Protection
Area for birds (SPA), Natural Park, Ramsar site and Important
Bird Area (IBA). Some 55,000 people live in the Ebro Delta, 500,000
people visit the area every year, there are 8,000 hectares of
natural wetland, and 21,000 hectares are devoted to growing rice.
The fishing industry contributes 18 million Euros to the local
12.07.04 : Vacancy Notice
at UNESCO-IHP / Poste vacant A UNESCO-PHI
UNESCO inform you that the Senior Programme
Specialist post, Chief of the Section on Sustainable Water Resources
Development and Management, Division of Water Sciences,
is open for
recruitment and applications are now being accepted.
UNESCO vous informe que le poste de spécialiste
du programme, chef
de la section sur la gestion et le développement durable
des ressources en
eau à la Division des sciences de l'eau, est ouvert
au recrutement et que
les dossiers des postulants peuvent être déposés
à partir de maintenant. Plus
03.07.04 : Dresden Elbe
Valley inscibed on UNESCO World Heritage Liste
Germany - Dresden Elbe Valley. The 18th and 19th
century cultural landscape of Dresden Elbe Valley extends some
18-km along the river from Übigau Palace and Ostragehege
fields in the northwest to the Pillnitz Palace and the Elbe River
Island in the southeast. It features low meadows, and is crowned
by the Pillnitz Palace and the centre of Dresden with its numerous
monuments and parks from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The landscape
also features 19th and 20th century suburban villas and gardens
and valuable natural features. Some terraced slopes along the
river are still used for viticulture and some old villages have
retained their historic structure and elements from the industrial
revolution: notably the 147-m Blue Wonder steel bridge (1891-1893),
the single-rail suspension cable railway (1898-1901), and the
funicular (1894-1895). The passenger steamships (the oldest from
1879) and shipyard (ca 1900) are still in use.
Kontakt: Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. Tel.:
(07732) 9995-11 Mobil: (0175) 5724833
Fax: (07732) 9995-77 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
29.06.04 : Danube day
was celebrated on 29.06.04 in 13 countries across Europe, uniting
East and West
: Conference Announcement: 9th international Living Lakes Conference
The 9th international
Living Lakes Conference will take place in British Columbia, Canada,
from September 26 to October 2, 2004. Hosted by the Global Nature
Fund, the East Kootenay Environmental Society and the District
of Invermere, this conference facilitates a dialogue on sustainable
land and water use in recreational and tourism developments, and
in business and corporate practices.
focuses on sustainable tourism and corporate social responsibility
for water ecosystems !
registration : http://www.globalnature.org/docs/02_vorlage.asp?id=19632&sp=E&m1=11089&m2=11103&m3=11166&m4=