The Leaders analysed how Spain’s most polluted river was recovered
The President of the Segura River Authority, Miguel Ángel Ródenas Cañada, told the Leaders about the characteristics of a land which is “more typical of the North of Africa than of Europe.” This is, he said, “the basin with the least rainfall out of the 215 largest rivers in Europe” and where, when it happens, rain is usually torrential.
Agriculture is at the core of the region’s social and economic system. The excellent quality crops are mainly exported to the European Union. The sector uses 80% of the water managed by the River Authority, whose main tasks are the Tajo-Segura transfer, the network’s maintenance, managing droughts and floods and desalination (the basin has thirteen large plants generating 333 cubic hectometres, one of the greatest concentrations in the world), on top of the Segura river project.
The project attracted the Leaders’ attention due to its similarities to the Yamuna river project, recently presented in Spain, co-directed by architect Pankaj Vir Gupta and Spaniard Iñaki Alday. In the 90s, the Segura river was considered to be the most polluted river in Spain. Where it flowed through Murcia, according to Miguel Ángel Ródenas, it was “an open sewer, all it carried was waste water.”
The Segura River Project was born with the purpose of obtaining more water to be used in agriculture, as well as recovering the river and its ecosystem. An integrated sewer, purifying plants and billing per pollution levels was proposed. Over the course of 10 years, 46 tertiary treatment plants were built. Thanks to them, currently “99% of the water is treated” and reused. In 2012, the project’s success was clearly demonstrated by the sighting of an otter in the river in Murcia. Also, artificial lagoons by the treatment plants attracted many birds, some of them belonging to endangered species. Two of those lagoons even qualified as Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance).
For the Leaders, the results of the Segura River Project are “amazing” and its implementation reflects “outstanding work.” Dinesh Kumar considered the economic returns of the water use for irrigation to be “impressive” and noted that, with the existing profit margins, “even desalination can be profitable.”
Architect Pankaj Vir Gupta emphasised his admiration for the planning process carried out by the Segura River Authority. “Over the past twenty years they have devised a plan which has worked for them. I would love it if we could build a similar system together in our country over the coming years.”