Users community involvement in water resources management
The Baix Ter Basin case
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People in charge of the innovative practice :
Solà Subiranas Joan – firstname.lastname@example.org
The ‘Junta Central d’Usuaris d’Aigües del Baix Ter’ (JCUABT) is a public law corporation created in April 2015 to protect the water of the Ter River and its aquifers, and to ensure that its availability, both in quantity and quality, is guaranteed for all uses, that is: the municipal supply of the 40 municipalities of the Baix Ter plain that are part, the development of agriculture, tourism and industry, and the hydrogeological support of historic ditches, wetlands and the landscape.
These principles of defense of the water of the Ter and its aquifers are based on a hydrological management model of local territorial base and, at the same time, committed to participate and encourage the idea of an agreement for national water management, of wider scope, based on the principle of territorial commonwealth, which allows to face with rationality and cooperation the structures that must satisfy the current and future needs of water in the country.
A model of progress
In addition to sustaining the economy of this area, the water of the Ter feeds landscapes that are reservoirs of biodiversity and nature. The existence of two Natural Parks linked to the lower plain of the river are a sign of the interest aroused by the natural values of the area. On the other hand, the territory increasingly strengthens the consideration of these values and the rural, water and agricultural landscape as an asset of the model of progress of its municipalities and, at the same time, as elements of proximity for the improvement of the quality of life of its population.
Water solidarity with the country
The functions of the Ter extend to its hydrological field, since the water solidarity that this river exercises for the whole country is well known, for decades with the Llobregat basin. A solidarity that, for 50 years, has made it possible to satisfy the demand for water in the city of Barcelona and its metropolitan, urban and industrial environment, generating wealth and levels of prosperity that have had a positive impact on the whole country.
The historical solidarity of the Baix Ter has been exemplary, since it has been exercised without conditions and despite the not innocuous cost that the transfer of water has had on the economy, the natural values and the landscape of the ceding territory. Hydrological predation, with a flow derivation that has easily exceeded 200 hm3/year on average of the period, has transformed the landscape, soil and customs, in addition to strongly damaging the natural hydrological dynamics and the native ecological values of El Baix Ter.
The problems of water in the Baix Ter
The problems of water in the Baix Ter are well known given the dissemination made of the studies and controls that are carried out from the territory itself, the administration, various groups and universities. The hydrological and ecological indicators that record the evolution of the water of the Ter show a persistent loss of quality of the ecosystems linked to the river and the wetlands of the Baix Ter plain, as well as a decrease in water tables and groundwater quality, mainly due to salinity, presence of biocides and nitrates. Not surprisingly, the bodies of surface and groundwater of the Baix Ter are at quantitative and qualitative risk as can be seen from the studies to update their status that are carried out within the framework of the regional Management Plans required by the Water Framework Directive.
Apart from the problems manifested by the hydrological and ecological indicators of the area, there is also an important problem associated with the risk of water restrictions for irrigation, with the real possibility of high production losses. In the same vein, the unforeseeable risk of collapse of the main nuclei of water supply to the tourism sector and the population, such as Torroella, Palafrugell and L’Escala is a possibility that cannot be denied.
A historical claim
From Girona lands, the demand for a more dignified Ter and the demand for a global water management for the country has been a constant for decades, with laudable efforts of people, institutions and business and agricultural organizations. However, and even after the formation experienced as a result of the extreme hydrological drought of the years 2007-2008, none of the political scenarios that have occurred in the country has met this historical demand with sufficient consideration, firmness and future approach.
It is in this context, and precisely from the mobilization initiated during the last drought prior to 2015 by municipalities, institutions and groups downstream of the reservoirs, that the Girona territory is organized and takes a new direction, whose first milestone was the creation of the Central Board of Water Users of baix Ter.
The work to be addressed in the immediate future is to implement the best practices achievable in the territory of the Baix Ter as a result of the conclusions of the different studies carried out within the framework of the PECT Aigua and the agreement with the Catalan Water Agency. These have to do with the priority areas of recharge of the deep aquifer, with the preservation of the quality and quantity of water in the areas and perimeters of protection of the municipal catchments or, among others, with the protection of the aquifer environment before the expectations of exploitation of aggregates in areas of special hydrogeological sensitivity.
The axes that underpin the operation of the Central Board of Water Users of the Baix Ter are the good order of the uses, the right to the use of water by citizens and activities, and the participation of the user in decision-making, both those related to water management and the implementation of measures for its sustainable use. All of them are principles that share the motivation of the postulates of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and have the added particularity that they are exercised from the proximity of the territory.
The functions carried out by the JCUABT are those of management, planning and control of water and its use, the application of efficiency programs, the containment of salinity and overexploitation, the recharge of aquifers and wetlands, and the improvement of the circulation of river flows, ditches and irrigation. Additionally, and in a very specific way, the function of the JCUABT is the generation of new specialized knowledge that, together with the existing one, allows us to talk one-on-one with the Catalan Hydraulic Administration when it comes to foreseeing policies for better management and protection of water resources.
The Central Board of Water Users of the Baix Ter comprises the scope of the bodies of surface and underground water that run within the delimitation of the so-called Mass 33 or Fluviodeltaic of the Baix Ter. It includes the lower course of the Ter River from Celrà to the mouth, the Daró River and the Pals Stream, and the section of the Albons corridor to L’Escala. This area also includes groundwater from the aquifers of the Baix Ter alluvial plain, the Celrà basin aquifer and the Daró aquifers and the Palafrugell basin, including a total of 40 municipalities.
Also, part of the JCUABT are: the Community of Irrigators of the Menàrguens Dam, the Community of Irrigators of the Rec del Molí de Pals, the Community of Irrigators of Cervià-Sant Jordi-Colomers, and the Community of Irrigators of the Acequia Carrilet, with almost 10,000 ha of irrigation, in addition to approximately a thousand wells.
The creation of the Central Board of Water Users of the Baix Ter is the response that gives the territory to a rational claim for the protection of the Ter River and its aquifers, and that has the justification in the basic function that its water develops in the socioeconomic growth of this wide territory, which extends from the surroundings of Girona to the lower plain of the river, leader of the country in quality tourism activity and solid reference in the whole of its agricultural production.
The Central Board of Water Users of Baix Ter (JCUABT), was recognized by the Catalan Water Agency on April 9, 2015 and appointed its governing bodies at the General Meeting of May 7, 2015. Previously, the Drafting Committee of the Statutes had submitted on October 31, 2014, the application for the constitution and approval of its statutes.
In his daily work, he has developed an extensive knowledge about the hydrology and hydrogeology of the area, with advanced monitoring and the use of predictive models of detail. The use of this information, together with the political will of a joint management of the resource, allow it to face the problems derived from the use of water in an area eminently agricultural and, at the same time, tourist.
Evidence of benefits from implementation
With its constitution and structuring, since 2015 the Central Board of Users of the Baix Ter has been initiated opportunities to channel and structurally rethink the hydrological functioning of the country: extending the principle of hydrological solidarity to all the basins of the Catalan territory, betting on a greater rapprochement and a real application of the postulates of the Water Framework Directive, and executing the necessary actions to compensate for the historical neglect of the Ter River and its territory.
Thus, in this context, the Central Board of Users of the Baix Ter has been able to opt for a project -between 2018 and 2023- of specialization and territorial competitiveness in an operation for its consolidation, specialization and territorial projection (PECT Girona, Water Sensitive Region). It has also allowed it to sign a management entrustment agreement with the Catalan Water Agency -between 2019 and 2021- to carry out various studies related to the improvement of the Baix Ter groundwater body and the improvement of its water management.
REPLICATION POTENTIAL IN SUDOE REGION
In the area of the Spanish State, where the general legislation on water is the same, the possibilities of replication are direct. In the French and Portuguese geographical area, an in-depth study of its state regulations would be necessary to assess a potential direct replication. In any case, the type of benefits achieved by the JCUABT should be the same in the case of entities from other countries with similar objectives.
Key points of the innovative method
- The JCUABT is an example of cooperation between diverse user entities in the same territory
- The water need, the improvement in the efficiency of use of the resource and a protection of the socio-economic and environmental values group the interests of the users.
- The decisions taken by JCUABT are based on intense monitoring of surface and groundwater
- Advanced knowledge and political will together allow actors to coordinate hydrogeological management being a great example of governance.
The innovative practice was proposed by Josep Mas-Pla (ICRA and GEOCAMB)
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