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The Tajo-Segura Water Transfer: no criteria for its reduction

At no point do the five sentences of the Supreme Court to which the Minister Ribera is appealing determine the exact amount of ecological flows for the Tajo.
trasvase tajo segura

The reduction of water in the Tajo-Segura Water Transfer does not take into account either technical or legal criteria, but rather solely and exclusively criteria of a political and territorial nature, without being endorsed using any scientific or legal foundations.

At the time of writing this information, the Cabinet had already passed the Hydrological Plan, but its final approval was still required. The flow contributions for the Tajo-Segura Water Transfer to the provinces of Murcia, Alicante and Almeria will see their amounts reduced very significantly, endangering the most productive farms on the continent.

With the approval of the plan, the increase of the Tajo’s ecological flows will be imposed, which would rise from 6m³/s to 8.63m³/s, in such a way that the average volume of the contributions for the Tajo-Segura Water Transfer will be reduced by 78 hm³/year. A decrease which, moreover, will be worsened with the planned transfers to supply the plains of La Mancha.

With this data, the Central Trade Union of Irrigators of the Tajo-Segura Aqueduct (SCRATS) foresees the annual loss of 103.5 hm³ of the water supply linked to the Transfer.

In addition to the water reduction that the Spanish Levant region will suffer, the Segura Plan also tackles the reduction of the exploitation planned for the underground water bodies, which puts at risk the good quantitative condition of all the underground water within the boundaries. In this way, a total of 213.2 hm³/year, from underground water masses will have to stop being used by the year 2027.

If, at present, the total deficit of applicable resources in the basin, according to the Segura Plan, is 96.4 hm³/year, by the year 2027 this figure could reach 287 hm³/year (considering the restriction on using underground water and the increases from the desalination plants.)

Added to this figure are the cutbacks in the average volumes that will cease to be transported by the Tajo-Segura Water Transfer (103.5 hm³/year), which will leave the deficit in the year 2027 at a total of 390.5 hm³/year.

What does this mean in social and economic terms?

The approval of this plan would contemplate the following scenarios: the loss of 27,314 hectares of irrigated surface area; the disappearance of over 15,000 jobs; reductions in financial assets estimated at 5,692 million euros; the elimination of CO2 dumps for the crops linked to the existing irrigated land. And an increase in the price of drinking water paid by consumers, as a result of a greater dependence on desalinated water (more expensive and polluting).

What endorses or obliges ecological flows of 8.63m3/s to be set for 2027 when they are currently at 6m3/s?

According to Isabel Caro-Patón Carmona (a partner in Menéndez & Asociados Abogados), a specialist in rights for natural resources, energy and water, there is no technical requirement that guarantees that the increase in the ecological flows could mean the improvement of River Tajo waters, but rather that this improvement depends on other factors, particularly relative to the effluents of the treated waters that flow into this river.

Furthermore, the legal requirements are also not involved, as the five sentences of the Supreme Court, to which the Minister Teresa Ribera is appealing, only oblige the setting of ecological flows, but at no point are the exact amounts determined.

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