They announced it in July 2020, but this Tuesday it is official. The Council of Ministers has approved the modification of the operating rules of the Tajo-Segura transfer that will automatically send less water when the system is in good condition to avoid the exceptional situations that have characterized half its useful life. of the aqueduct.
The new norm will allow the pumping of 27 hm3 while the transfer is at level 2, that is, 11 less than the current 38 hm3. This measure aims to avoid “exceptional situations” and also to enter the situation of ‘zero’ transfer in the case of receiving basins.
The decision has been taken following the scientific-technical opinion of the Center for Studies and Experimentation of Public Works (CEDEX), as well as with the endorsement of the Central Commission for the Exploitation of the Transfer and the National Water Council. The agreement of the Council of Ministers will enter into force as soon as it is published in the BOE, and will allow “a more orderly and stable management of the aqueduct system,” according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. This, they emphasize, will offer advantages “for both the transferring and receiving basins.”
“In the Levant, without the transfer, desert and unemployment”
From Castilla-La Mancha, the news has been celebrated since it was announced. The regional president, Emiliano García-Page, repeated to his counterparts in Murcia and the Valencian Community that “if they want us to talk seriously about water, let’s do it on the banks of the Tagus, so that they can see the river filth that we have while they carry five times more water to other areas of Spain “. However, the Government of the Region of Murcia supported the mobilizations of the irrigators under the slogan “In the Levant, without the transfer, desert and unemployment” and its regional president, Fernando López Miras, stressed that “it is inadmissible and unacceptable” that the Government has a roadmap to cut the Tajo-Segura Transfer “without listening to irrigators and farmers.”
The National Executive defends that these new approved thresholds meet a fundamental principle of “balance” between the water available in the headwaters of the Tajo, Entrepeñas and Buendía, and also in the receiving basins of the transfer. In this way, it is intended to “minimize the risk” that the transfer will enter a situation of hydraulic exceptionality and, consequently, that this causes the downstream discharge to be interrupted. This, they recall, has happened “frequently” in recent years, “as the effects of climate change on the rainfall regime in our country worsen.”
The effect of the zero transfer has been described as “perverse” and it is not seen as something positive by the riverside municipalities of Castilla-La Mancha, who have assured that it is something “forced” by the circumstances that the Tagus system is experiencing. From Ecological Transition they emphasize that the average contributions of the transfer have been falling in a “sustained manner” since the 1980s “and that in recent years the headwaters of the river have been” almost half the time in an exceptional hydrological situation, which which makes it impossible to ship water. “” In 2017 the transfer tap remained closed for eleven months in a row due to lack of sufficient flow. This does not correspond to the spirit of the standard, which advocates a regular and stable exploitation of this infrastructure. ”
The Executive defends that with these new norms, effectively, the receiving basins will have access to less quantity, but due to the “balance” they are looking for, they will have access to water every month, by avoiding the “zero” transfer.
The amount of water that can be transferred from the head of the Tagus to the Segura River Basin is established according to what is accumulated in the Entrepeñas and Buendía swamps, at the beginning of each month. The annual total is 650 hm3, 600 for the Segura river and 50 for the Guadiana. Level 1 is established when stocks are equal to or greater than 1,300 hm3, or in the event that the joint contributions that enter the reservoirs in the last twelve months are equal to or greater than 1,400 hm3. If this level is reached, the maximum transfer can be 60 hm3.
Level 2 is the one that will be most affected, and it occurs when joint stocks are less than 1,300 hm3 and the contributions of the previous twelve months do not reach 1,400 hm3. In this case, the maximum transfer was 38 hm3, but now it will be 27. Level 3 depends on how many resources there are each month, and is reached between 688 hm3 in July and 591 in March. This is the level that is considered to be of exceptional hydrological situation. In this case, the transfers will be a maximum of 20 hm3 and must be finally authorized by the Ministry. In the case of reaching less than 400 hm3 of dammed water, no transfers can take place.
The transfer rules have been modified on other occasions since they were approved for the first time in 1997. In 2014, the agency in charge, then the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment, modified all the parameters of the original rule, except the transfer volume. monthly level 2, which remained at 38 hm3 “despite the criteria against the technicians”, in favor of limiting it to 30 hm3.
“The agreement approved now seeks to adapt a critical infrastructure for the supply of three million people in Castilla-La Mancha, Murcia and Albacete to the inescapable reality of climate change, the alteration of rain patterns and, in short, a less water availability “, they emphasize from the national Executive.
The Council of Ministers has also approved the new rates for the use of the Tajo-Segura, in this way it is intended to recover the annual costs of exploitation, operation and conservation, as well as the recovery of the amortizations of the investments made by the State. Its calculation and preparation is carried out according to the standardized and regulated procedure, and must be paid annually to the users of the transfer.
The rate table varies for each group of users of the transfer and is biennial. To fix them, we have worked with all the groups involved, represented in the Central Exploitation Commission of the Tajo-Segura Aqueduct, explain from the Government of Spain. The rates will come into effect as of their publication in the BOE.