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Water Commissioner of the Confederación Hidrográfica del Guadalquivir (CHG) - Spain

According to you, what is the importance of INBO, at the European and international level?

INBO's existence is very important because it makes possible to share experiences of different basin organizations, problems that we managers have and to deal with the legislation that we have in our day-to-day work.
We often find ourselves managing the basin with legislation that is not 100% adapted. So this type of meeting is very important because we find colleagues who have the same and different problems.
From that, we have the possibility of orienting European legislation or certain policies in a coordinated manner.

What are Spain's challenges in water management? What are the main orientations of public policies?

Spain is a country that has always had water shortages. So it was from that point of view that the Confederación Hidrográfica was created. It forms part of the Spanish basin organisations with a validity of almost 100 years.
This integrated management of basins has allowed us to make very good use of the resource. The disadvantage we are having is climate change. It is going to lead us to face a series of problems. We are going to have to change our ways of managing the resource.
From this point of view I think it is very important to know how to make the surface water resource compatible with the underground resource. But we control the surface water much more easily!

How do you work in your country which is like a federation of regions? How are they coordinated? What kind of public policies are there at the national level?

In Spain, basin management is included in the Constitution. It means that there is a state, a regional and a provincial political administration.
But for the management of basins they are organisms that exceed this environment. For example, in the case of the Guadalquivir, we manage our territory of basins in 4 autonomous communities. We work independently, with the same criteria in these 4 communities. The president of the basin organisation reports directly to the central government.
The only thing we have to coordinate is the work with the communities but the water policy and management is directed by a single command. It is a concept that is almost 100 years old in Spain. Socially, the citizens' conscience has accepted it.
In countries that start with integrated water management it is very complicated because it’s difficult to differentiate administrative management from basin management. In Spain, in this case we have made a lot of progress.

Do they carry out information campaigns in the direction of citizens?

When the Confederation was created, the users’bodies were involved from the beginning. The first users were the irrigators because Spain is a very arid country and needs to be in a position to have the resource available at certain times.
So in our central board of governments, the highest body, are represented all the wáter users: wáter company, irrigators, industry, energy. Thus, in the decision making, all are involved.
On the other hand we have the planning and we always have a public participation. When we organize projects we also make public information. In our highest decision-making body, we have incorporated users who have votes to make decisions.

Do you have special information programs for schools?

We do have environmental education programmes when we restore river sections or special infrastructures. In each project we have an economic part dedicated to this type of information to make known what we do and that people realize what we have done.
Above all we are intensifying environmental education from the point of view of invasive species because we have several IAS and the best way to fight against these species is to take into account the knowledge of citizens. We have a series of activities in schools to develop knowledge of what these species are and how they spread.

Returning to INBO, what were your priority objectives during your presidency?

First, we started with the Conference in Seville which was a successful attendance. We wanted to transmit the basin management system that has existed for almost 100 years, which has worked and the idea was for people to be being aware of it.
Also, the fight against climate change. We are used to fight scarcity, but climate change is going to make us change the way we act. We have participated in several days, international workshops during the 8 months of our Presidency to present the Spanish management system so that people would know it.

What should be the main objectives of INBO at the European and international level?
At the European level, we have elected new deputies, what could be INBO's role to accompany them in a better knowledge of the problems of integrated river basin management?

In the short term, they're doing very well. More and more managers are taking part in congresses. In the long term, I think that INBO is a good platform to coordinate, showcase and define water management in the sense of integrated water management.  
There are some countries that have already done it, there are others that are evolving but there is another very important topic, it is data management.
It seems to me that INBO is the good platform to try to get everyone to follow the same line, to generate an engineering type service so that the various basin management organizations can benefit from the coordination carried out by INBO, because I think that the future lies in data management for good basin management.


Interview conducted during the EUROPE-INBO 2019 Conference - From 17 to 20 June 2019 in Lahti (Finland) - © RIOB 2019