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Tagus river at risk of drying up
© Diliff

Tagus River at risk of drying up


The Tagus River, the longest in the Iberian Peninsula, is in danger of drying up completely as Spain once again finds itself in the midst of drought.

Miguel Ángel Sánchez, spokesman of the Platform in Defence of the Tagus, said: “The river has collapsed through a combination of climate change, water transfer and the waste Madrid produces.”

The Tagus rises in Aragón in northern Spain, passes close to Madrid and forms part of the border with Portugal before flowing into the sea at Lisbon. En route, it is dammed no fewer than 51 times in Spain alone.

In 1902 a plan was conceived to siphon off water from here and divert it to the Segura River to irrigate farms in the arid southeast. Construction began in 1966 and water began flowing out of the dammed Tagus headwaters to the Segura in 1979.

However, the amount of available water was miscalculated and Spain’s cyclical droughts were not factored in. Today only 47% of the predicted water resources exist and levels in the two headwater dams are down to 11% capacity.

Nuria Hernández-Mora, a founding member of the Foundation for a New Water Culture, said: “All of these problems derive from designing a water transfer from the headwaters of a river, overestimating the available resources and joining two areas with similar climate cycles.

“The transfer has served to create social and political conflict and turn the Tagus into one of the rivers in the worst ecological state in the peninsula.”

Spain’s water management has been driven by economics, not environmental considerations, says environmental lawyer María Soledad Gallego. “A river isn’t just a water resource, it has a cultural, social, historic and aesthetic value.”

Pan European Networks Ltd