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Spain starves Portugal’s rivers in defiance of water agreement

guadianamiradouroEnvironmental association ZERO has called for Portugal and Spain to discuss Spain’s failure to respect the existing agreement over water flows in the Tagus, Douro and Guadiana rivers that start in Spain and run through Portugal to the sea.

The association has assessed what few flow records it has managed to obtain for 2016 and 2017 and concluded that there were several periods in which Spain was pinching more water than it was allowed.

The environment ministers from Portugal and Spain will be meeting in Oporto to discuss the agreement on the Iberian rivers, which, for Francisco Ferreira of ZERO, at best will result in “an understanding between Portugal and Spain, which is fundamental in the management of water in drought situations. It seems to us that there has to be greater transparency, to see whether or not the existing convention is being fulfilled.”

Zero says that research is difficult as neither country publishes its flow rate data but the current weekly flow rates planned for the Tagus and the Douro are far below what the association would like.”

For the environmentalist, Portugal is in a more complicated negotiating position, “because we are downstream from Spain. But we hope that the ministers will understand each other and ensure a sufficient quantity and quality of water will be released.”

According to the environmentalist, in the case of the Tagus there was one week in September when it was clear that the weekly flow was not respected and in the case of the Guadiana, it reports a period of well over a month when the flow rate was not respected.

ZERO proposes that “Portugal and Spain agree to make more information available so that the public can know the status of the agreement on international rivers.”

The environmentalists also argue that the two countries should “try to negotiate for the Tejo and for the Douro, daily flows and weekly flows that are roughly double the present ones.”

The two environment ministers will be taking part in a meeting of the Commission for the Implementation and Development of the Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of Waters in the Luso-Spanish Hydrographic Basins – the Albufeira Convention which regularly appears to be flouted by Spain with massive amounts diverted from the Tagus for the irrigation of thousands of hectares of fruit farms.

The Portuguese minister, João Matos Fernandes, said it is “possible to go further in this work together,” although his useless performance over Spain’s Almaraz nuclear power station on the Tagus gives little hope that he will stand up for Portugal over water rights.

The minister clarified that he will be discussing, “the issue of management of water bodies, together and the issue of water quality.”

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