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Working papers from the Economics Department of the OECD that cover the full range of the Department’s work including the economic situation, policy analysis and projections; fiscal policy, public expenditure and taxation; and structural issues including ageing, growth and productivity, migration, environment, human capital, housing, trade and investment, labour markets, regulatory reform, competition, health, and other issues.
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Policies Towards a Sustainable Use of Water in Spain
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- Andrés Fuentes1
- Author Affiliations
- 1: OECD, France
- 02 Feb 2011
- Bibliographic information
Spain uses its natural water resources intensively, mostly in agriculture, thanks to a highly developed dam infrastructure. The limits for extraction of natural resources have largely been reached and climate change is expected to continue lowering natural water endowments markedly in future especially in dry areas of the country. The costs of exploiting alternative supply sources on a large scale, notably desalination and recycling, remain well above water prices paid by consumers at present. The government has recognised that water policies therefore need to switch to demand management, so as to ensure that available resources are put to most efficient and priority use. Scope for water savings is substantial, especially in agriculture, where much irrigation water generates little value-added. The government has subsidised the use of more efficient irrigation technology at considerable budgetary cost, which has contributed to a modest reduction of water use in irrigation in recent years. The participatory approach in water policy governance should be extended further to stakeholders beyond the irrigation community, to include more scientists or representatives of institutions protecting local ecosystems Low water prices, combined with the free allocation of water concessions, still hamper an efficient use of water resources. Water prices will need to rise further so as to reflect service provision costs in full as well as the scarcity and environmental costs of water abstractions. Steps to better take into account water scarcity should include the progressive inclusion of market instruments, such as the tendering of water concessions as well as the elimination of some barriers to the exchange of such concessions among users. Benchmark regulation of water utilities would contribute to more efficient water supply and treatment services. Further steps need to be taken to halt excessive groundwater abstractions, including through improved monitoring and the introduction of charges on abstractions from overexploited aquifers.
- regulation of water utilities, water governance, water use, water prices, river basin authorities, groundwater, Spain, groundwater management, irrigation, overexploitation, water scarcity, water resources, water policy
- JEL Classification:
- Q15: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Agriculture / Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment
- Q18: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Agriculture / Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
- Q25: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Renewable Resources and Conservation / Water