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The Guadiana basin case study


The Guadiana river basin, located in the south-west of Spain, is expected to be one of the climate change most negatively affected basins in Spain. Irrigated agriculture will be highly determined by the decrease in water availability, and therefore adaptation in the agricultural sector seems to be crucial.


The Guadiana basin (Spanish part)

Source: own elaboration

 In this basin, socio-economic development has been traditionally linked to the agricultural sector and especially to irrigation. However, agriculture differs largely between the two main sub-basins: the upper and the middle Guadiana. These two sub-basins belong, respectively, to two different regional administrations. Therefore, the application and enforcement of agricultural policies and climate change adaptation policies will be under the competence of the related regional governments. Up to the present, climate change adaptation strategies are defined and starting to be developed for the national level but still pending to be down-scaled and fully implemented in the regions.

The main issues in these two sub-basins regarding water management and water use are:

Upper Guadiana

  • Conflicts between agriculture development and environmental conservation
  • Important irrigation development based on groundwater
  • Positive social and economic effects
  • Negative environmental impacts: over-exploitation of aquifers and loss of wetlands
  • Low effectiveness and high costs of management and control measures

Middle Guadiana

  • Important irrigation development based on surface water (public development plans, subsidies)
  • High storage capacity, which mitigates the vulnerability to climate variability
  • Technical and policy challenges: improving efficiency (technical and economic), modernization of irrigation systems, cost recovery (WFD)…

Given the above mentioned conditions and the expected decrease in water availability due to climate change socio-economic and environmental impacts are expected to be high in the agricultural and irrigation water domains. Policy makers at national and regional levels face the challenge to design adequate CC adaptation strategies to cope with these impacts.


Alqueva dam (Middle Guadiana)

Source: SCENES project (2009)



Gravity irrigated tomatoes (Middle Guadiana)

Source: SCENES project (2009)



Intensive citrus production in Alqueva dam (Middle Guadiana)

Source: SCENES project (2009)


wetland degradation

Wetland degradation (Tablas de Daimiel National Park, Upper Guadiana)

Source: NeWater project (2006)


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