Results of the Glocharid Project Water Workshop (May 2012)

Within the framework of the project "Experimental design of indicators and methodology for the monitoring program of the effects of global change in arid and semi-arid areas of eastern Andalusia" (GLOCHARID), the CAESCG continues its efforts to consolidate the SCIENCE-MANAGEMENT Interface, which it started last year.

Download the Workshop Act

On May 21, 2012, a water workshop entitled "Water management in a semi-arid basin: indicators for monitoring and strategies for adaptation to global change" was held at the University of Almeria, within the framework of the GLOCHARID project. This workshop, organized by the Andalusian Center for the Assessment and Monitoring of Global Change (CAESCG) and under the auspices of the Research Results Transfer Office (OTRI) of the University of Almeria, convened a group of researchers and managers with the aim of bringing them together again around the issues identified in the first workshop held in 2011 and work on:

  • Specify and deepen further, if appropriate, each of them.
  • Identify new ones if necessary.
  • Classify them in the organization chart of the domains of the gradient of concreteness of the detected problem and of the gradient of scientific knowledge existing in the academic world (Rudd 2011).
  • Try to establish science-management transfer binomials to address and solve those well known and identified problems.

The participants in the WATER Workshop held on May 21 were:

Management scope:

Research scope:

  • Jesús Casas, responsible for the subproject "Ecosystemic integrity of river watercourses".
  • Antonia Garrido, responsible for the subproject "Water quality in a semi-arid basin".
  • Javier Arrebola, researcher subproject "Water quality in a semi-arid basin".
  • Nuria Guirado, researcher subproject "Amphibians and reptiles".
  • Sara Jorreto, technician for the coordination and development of the science-management interface, CAESCG.
  • Javier Cabello, CAESCG assistant director and co-responsible for the GLOCHARID project.
  • Hermelindo Castro, CAESCG director and GLOCHARID project manager.

Teaching and dissemination:

  • José Luis Castillo (@jlcastilloch), teacher at IES Celia Viñas and collaborator of the Department of Education.

The workshop began with a welcome and introduction by Hermelindo Castro and Javier Cabello, as representatives of the CAESCG and the GLOCHARID project management, who commented on the following issues:

  • Reminder of the results of the previous workshop and the objectives set for the present workshop and the dynamics proposed for its execution.
  • The adoption of the matrix of relationships between scientific knowledge and management, and the domains established therein according to Rudd (2011) as a framework for the analysis of environmental problems and the proposal of actions and indicators linked to them.
  • The objective is to form transfer teams for the treatment of environmental problems that are considered to be better articulated and better known between researchers and managers. This way of working has already been implemented in the framework of the GLOCHARID project, with two binomials having been formed, one between the Natural Environment Management and the researchers of the "Birds" subproject (monitoring of birds of prey: golden and Bonelli's eagles) and the other between the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park and the researchers of the "Invasive Exotic Species" subproject (elimination of Pennisetum Setaceum).


PROBLEM: Chemical contamination of water by priority and emerging contaminants.

The first intervention was by Antonia Garrido who, having seen the problems highlighted, missed the problem of chemical contamination of water by priority and emerging contaminants, among which are pharmaceuticals and products for personal use, surfactants, flame retardants, industrial additives, steroids and hormones, as well as disinfection by-products. There is currently a growing interest in these types of contaminants whose presence has been detected elsewhere in water supplies, groundwater and even drinking water. These pollutants are poorly removed and pass into treated effluents, in most cases corresponding to unregulated pollutants. The problem arises from the fact that some of them can generate endocrine alterations, and can have mimetic or antagonistic effects on the biological functions of natural hormones. According to Antonia, an example of the finding of this type of contaminants in the Glocharid area is the finding of paracetamol, ibuprofen and caffeine in the "Tíjola" sampling point (sample taken in the Almanzora riverbed) and the "Albox" sampling point (sample taken in a river affluent of the Almanzora).

The management evidence supporting this problem are the already existing lists of priority substances (Decision No 2455/2001/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2001 approving the list of priority substances in the field of water policy and modifying Directive 2000/60/CE). Jesús Casas asks whether herbicides and fungicides are being analyzed, since their direct and negative influence on biodiversity is well known. The answer is negative. Manuel Navarro and Juan Carlos Nevado are interested in the sampling points (on this, there would be no problem on the part of the CAESCG to facilitate their location) and, in addition, M. Navarro proposes that it would be interesting to carry out a specific sampling campaign of the wells that supply the population.

PROBLEM: River ecosystems typical of arid zones, such as temporary watercourses and streams, receive only marginal consideration in the approaches of the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

It is commented that the WFD does not consider temporary watercourses and it is very complex to determine their quality using indicators based on the presence and abundance of aquatic microorganisms, since they are characterized by the absence of water during most of the year. Jesús Casas comments that one way to solve this problem could be through the use of hydromorphological and vegetation indicators to evaluate the state of conservation of these habitats.

PROBLEM: Aquatic ecosystems ( streams, wetlands, etc.) present pollution problems due to insufficient or non-existent treatment and reuse of urban wastewater.

J. Ignacio Moya comments on a case of contamination by a pesticide (simazine) in the urban water supply of Cordoba a few years ago. He gives it as an example of a problem whose origin was agricultural wastewater runoff (it is not detected in the periodic analytical controls) but which ends up being transferred to and assumed by the manager (the manager assumes it even though he is not the cause). In relation to the problem of emerging contaminants, he comments that in the case of the Almanzora, pharmaceuticals such as analgesics/medicines have not yet been detected, and that for now this problem is not yet a concern for the managers and the administration.

The problem of the presence of effluents from the wastewater treatment plants is highlighted, expressing the importance of the municipal authorities to act in relation to the improvement of obsolete wastewater treatment plants and those that do not work well. Currently, he informs us that there are 17 actions of great scope to improve this issue, mainly in the municipalities of Huércal-Overa, Cuevas de Almanzora and Costa del Levante. In this same line, J.I. Moya complains about the lack of approval of Municipal Ordinances of Dumping, since although the domestic dumping complies with the conditions of purification, it does not happen the same with those of industrial origin (canning factories, livestock, etc.). If such regulations existed, it would be possible to establish a better control of the discharges by GALASA, an entity that informs the promoters of industrial activities of the conditions that their discharges should comply with. In the absence of regulations, the promoters end up complaining about the conditions expressed and the non-existence of such requirements in other places, with the consequent threat of moving the activity to another location.

Regarding the state of the 45 treatment plants of the Almanzora, J.I. Moya reports that only 20% are working perfectly, purify correctly and have a life of 6-10 years. The remaining 79% are in acceptable purification conditions. Without purification, practically zero. Although it is true that the thresholds foreseen for our purification plants should be changed because in channels through which water does not circulate (which is our case on most occasions) they are useless. Solutions would have to be sought.

The poor state of the purification system in Mojácar and the consequent deterioration of the Mojácar lagoon, which showed clear evidence of high eutrophication (contamination by N and P polluted discharges), is discussed. J.I. Moya reports that this situation has been resolved since July 18, 2010. Mariano Paracuellos confirms the effectiveness of the solution taken since he comments that in the last months the state of the lagoon has improved considerably, showing even the presence of caracaceae, which represents an indicator of the good state of the lagoon. J.I. Moya, specifies that the discharge that gave rise to the eutrophication of the lagoon has not really been eliminated, but rather has been relocated (marine outfall), but the volume of the discharge remains the same. The definitive solution would be to build a new plant with a different technology, which does not seem feasible in the current economic crisis.

Juan Carlos Nevado alludes to the recovery of costs. He says that the citizen pays the rate of purification when in fact the waters go untreated to the watercourses. He denounces the fact that the local administration and the companies are charging it. Juan Ignacio Moya responds that this canon that the citizens pay to purify is totally insufficient.

Jesús Casas adds that, for example, the treatment of the 4 Vegas CCRR is deficient. For this reason, the pipes are in very bad condition and the water is loaded with organic matter. Finally, it was commented that direct reuse is improbable and tertiary treatment is unavoidable. Juan Ignacio Moya added that, for this reason, the agriculturist distrusts the regenerated water and that the canon is collected by the City Council but invested by the Department of the Environment.

PROBLEM: The aquatic ecosystems of the arid southeast of Andalusia (GLOCHARID area) are beginning to present serious problems in relation to the presence of invasive exotic species. This is especially relevant in the case of aquatic fauna.

In relation to the presence of invasive species, the importance of various species of fauna in the wetlands of the Glocharid area is highlighted. It is reported that native turtles (Mauremys leprosa) and water snakes (Natrix natrix and Natrix maura) are threatened and displaced by other exotic species, such as the Florida pond turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans), included in the list of the 110 most harmful exotic species in the world. Other species whose commercialization is spreading and which may soon represent a problem are Trachemys scripta scripta, Graptemys pseudogeograhica, and Pseudemys concinna. Unlike the Florida tortoise, these species do not yet show evidence that they can reproduce in the wild.

Another problematic species is the carp (Cyprinus carpio), whose presence in the Cañada de las Norias wetland seems to be causing the displacement of the duck (Oxyura leucocephala). Observations indicate that while there are more than 500 individuals of this duck in one of the two basins that make up the wetland, there are no individuals in the other due to the presence of carp. The eradication of this invasion is extremely complex, since in addition to the difficulty of eradicating the fish without impacting the ecosystem, the presence of carp may be associated with the release of individuals as a result of the sporting habits of the Romanian communities that inhabit the area.

The red crab (Procambarus clarkii) is another invasive species present in our aquatic ecosystems. Although its origin seems to have been the release of a few individuals, it has already been detected in the Adra river, in the Chanata pond (in S. Gádor), in the Aguas river and in Vícar. The impact of this species is high, as shown by the fact that in the Calabrial pond, in the Sierra de Gádor, it has caused the disappearance of the native amphibian community. It is thought that this is a problem that has no solution, given that in addition to its ease of natural expansion, its presence is assured in some enclaves by the provision of food by humans.

Reference is also made to the gambusia (Gambusia affinis and G. holbrooki), a fish that has been introduced worldwide for the biological control of mosquitoes, whose presence has been detected in the Almanzora River (1996), Adra River (2001) and Guadalfeo River (Motril, 2002). It is believed that it has not yet reached either Cabo de Gata or Punta Entinas-Sabinar.

Finally, the problem posed by the reed (Arundo donax) due to the alteration it produces in riparian habitats, as occurs in the Aguas and Adra rivers, is discussed. Although it is an invasive species, its treatment is complex because it is widespread due to its use in traditional horticultural crops.

In the particular case of the Almanzora River, carp, gambusia and American red crab are recognized as invasive species.

In relation to management evidence, the environmental administration has reports, but not yet censuses that allow estimating the abundance of invasive species.

PROBLEM: The disappearance of water surfaces represents a risk for the survival of amphibian communities.

In relation to this problem, at another point in the workshop, Mariano Paracuellos provided a fact: according to a study comparing the American flight of '57 with the current situation, the loss of 30% of natural wetlands has been observed.

As a contribution to the solution of this problem, Hermelindo Castro proposes to comment on the subject of the 8,000 agricultural ponds registered in Almeria. He proposes that a certain number of agriculturalists learn and practice the practices proposed in the "Manual Práctico de Balsas Agrícolas" (Practical Manual of Agricultural Ponds) which is already available. It is necessary to convince agriculturists of the usefulness and convenience of maintaining the ponds with macrophytes, amphibians, micro-organisms, etc.

Nuria Guirado comments that in the slopes of Sierra Alhamilla, experiences of this type are being carried out in areas near Vega Cañada and vineyards of Campo de Tabernas (experiences of not treating the ponds with chemical products to make them "ecological").

It is proposed to develop a TRAINING PROPOSAL aimed at a group of agriculturalists to make the ponds compatible with microorganisms and good practices.

PROBLEM: The captive aquifer systems of the upper and middle Almanzora river basin present levels of natural radioactivity whose impact on the population is being evaluated and eliminated.

J.M. Merino and Manuel Navarro report that the municipalities suffering from this problem in the Alto Almanzora are: Benizalón, Olula del Río, Fines, Tahal and Somontín, although levels of radioactivity have also been detected in Los Gallardos.

Although the impact that this natural radioactivity has on the population that has been supplied with this water in a traditional way is not a cause for concern, several actions are being carried out to solve it. Thus, while in Tahal a potable water treatment plant has been installed which is giving good results, in Fines reverse osmosis is also working with good results. In the rest of the municipalities the problem is in the process of being solved. The experiences carried out by the University of Extremadura (experimenting a water purification technology based on the modification of the pH of the water for the precipitation of Uranium and Radium) have not given the expected results. In the case of Somontín and Benizalón the problem persists since Ra radionuclides are located there, which are more difficult to eliminate and it is a very expensive process. For this reason, the water in these two municipalities has been declared unfit for any use.

It is not possible to build a Potable Water Treatment Plant (PWTP) in the Alto Almanzora due to lack of budget.

In any case, it is mentioned that there is no evidence of negative effects on the health of the people. In fact, it is mentioned that the possibility of raising the limit value from 0.1 to 0.4 mSv is being considered.

PROBLEM: Due to the ceasing of water extraction from the upper aquifers and the return of water from the lower aquifers and runoff after rainfall, the upwelling and subsequent growth of surface water bodies that threaten the surrounding crops and plots is occurring at various points in the Poniente Almeriense.

José M. Merino tells us that, in the Balsa del Sapo there is currently a pumping of 180 l/s fully connected to the sea. An additional pumping of 500 l/s is planned, in a first phase, to be discharged into the Rambla de Colomina and from there into the Rambla del Cañuelo to the sea. In a second phase, it is being studied to tube all the pumping to the sea through a submarine outfall.

PROBLEM: Absence of parameters and evidence for the estimation of ecological flows in arid and semiarid watercourses.

The absence of scientific evidence for estimating ecological flows at the European level is evident. This estimation becomes much more complicated when we talk about ecological flows in arid or semi-arid areas, where the watercourses are characterized by the absence of permanent water layers.

Jesús Casas mentions that, rather than the importance of maintaining a minimum flow in a channel that naturally has no flow during most of the year, he considers it a priority to maintain the morphometry and vegetation of the channel in a good state of conservation. In this way, physical impacts on the watercourses should be reduced since, in our wadis, physical alteration is more serious than the maintenance of a minimum ecological flow. Impacts such as the presence of highly degraded vegetation and compacted soil are well known. In short, the idea is shared that, in an arid environment such as ours, it is more important to conserve the hydromorphology of the riverbed even if the riverbed is dry.

J. Casas argues that in these two years of the Glocharid Project, there has been no water in approximately 20 stretches of the lower Almanzora River. He therefore suggests focusing attention on two fundamental issues: 1) maintaining the ecological integrity of the riverbed in the upper stretches, and 2) conserving the vegetation in the middle to upper stretches of the river.

J.M. Merino suggests initiating a debate on the need to differentiate the legal concept of "environmental flow or ecological flow".

Finally, the CMA reminds that the river agents take monthly data on physical-chemical parameters in the wetlands (very basic) and there are two samplings per year with more complete analyses.

PROBLEM. The complexity in the management and use of water resources reveals the absence of coherence in the existing governance models related to these resources.

It is highlighted that this is the most relevant problem of all, as it underlies the resolution of all the environmental problems highlighted. All attendees agree on the need for an absolute "chip" change in terms of governance of aquatic ecosystems in that:

  • political governance must be improved
  • decision-making based on better technical training must be encouraged
  • public participation must be encouraged (public outreach and awareness-raising).

J.M. Merino thinks that we should start by regularizing as many situations as possible, such as, for example, the administrative and legal status of the irrigation communities (CCRR). There are numerous CCRRs in Almeria that have been established and working very well for many years, but they are not legally constituted, so they cannot legally have water concessions.


To conclude the workshop, participants are asked to make a final contribution, comment or assessment:

Javier Arrebola comments that he has liked the workshop and that he has learned and known many issues that he did not know about. Antonia Garrido adds that a "cluster" could be made of what should be more relevant. She proposes that training courses be organized for agriculturists (especially in relation to the maintenance and treatment of ponds). Nuria Guirado thinks that the "biological/ecological" side of water should be taken into account and that this should be considered as a last resort (if at all). She also comments on the need to coordinate and even bring together all the administrations with competences in water. To the report of the workshop, Nuria adds the following: "the development of the Glocharid project is a unique opportunity not only to connect different fields of action, such as the proposed interface, but also to empathize professionally and to promote a real permeability of knowledge. To this end, what is proposed is not to identify managers as indicators of problems and scientists as indicators of solutions, but both as indicators of a new joint water management that considers the environmental functions of this resource as conditioning factors prior to other uses, saving basic domestic needs (Martínez Fernández, 2006)".

… "The sustainability of water resources in arid and semi-arid systems depends on multiple aspects. Although these meetings talk about those related to water quantity and quality, they practically avoid talking about those related to the pressure on natural systems, an essential dimension of the environmental sustainability of water uses in such areas (Martínez Fernández, 2006). Water management is mostly aimed at the economic sectors that directly benefit from the private appropriation of water (construction companies, large agricultural businesses, etc.)".

The rest of Nuria's contributions can be consulted in the attached document.

José M. Merino is in full agreement on improving governance and sincerely thinks that it is the solution for the future. Jesús Casas is in line with Nuria Guirado: in the absence of consideration of the biological/ecological aspect of water. This environmental aspect is never prioritized, on the contrary. He complains of an excessive fragmentation of the concept of water, i.e., that everyone is only concerned with what water means to them. Mariano Paracuellos highlights the importance of the creation, evolution and loss of wetlands. He emphasizes a new problem: the siltation of wetlands as a consequence of changes in land use and, in general, of human activities. In recent years, the clogging of wetlands has been a real problem. In the case of the Adra lagoon, where 7 wadis flow, the disappearance of the Honda lagoon is at stake. There is a great contribution of sediments from the wadis to the lagoons, which is causing larger deltas, among other things. Therefore, he stresses the importance that wetland management should not be limited only and exclusively to the wetland, but to the entire basin. He also comments that the fact that the traditional construction of greenhouses has changed and that they have become almost all gabled greenhouses, is influencing an increase in erosion and therefore sedimentation in the wadis. In the case of the Aguas River, the natural dynamic of siltation is accelerated. This problem could be included in problems 6 and 7. Juan Carlos Nevado thinks that an integral vision of the different sectors is fundamental and it is necessary for them to work together.

Pedro Egea believes that part of the solution to these problems lies in an educational issue since, as mentioned above, the vision of water depends on the personal interests of each individual. The integral vision of water will be achieved when there is a change of educational chip, that is, from the beginning. Juan Antonio Muñoz also supports the opinion of Nuria Guirado and Jesús Casas. He thinks that it is essential to consider the environmental side of water, which is currently not usually taken into account. Manuel Navarro insists on the need to involve the CCRRs and get them to accept and be convinced of the use of reclaimed wastewater and to be considered as benefactors and not as victims. It is suggested to derive the water from Balsa del Sapo to the dry part of the Punta Entinas-Sabinar wetland since it seems that this area is permanently dry. Mariano Paracuellos on the other hand, points out that this is not so, that at present it does have water. José Manuel Quero wants to highlight the positive aspect of the actual implementation of a science-management interface of collaboration between researchers of invasive plants of the UAL and the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in the elimination of Pennisetum setaceum. Javier Navarro refers to the problems discussed and mentions that, in addition to missing some that he considers important, he sees that the importance of the problems addressed is very different. He has missed talking about hydrological-forest restoration, the works that have been carried out, ecological flows, erosion from mining, flood regulation (such as the Almanzora dam), the problems of some watercourses (cleaning, spills, roads that cross them, etc.), the abandonment of traditional uses, the drafting of good practice manuals, etc. Juan Ignacio Moya expresses his gratitude for having been invited to the Workshop where he assures to have learned a lot. He also believes that the key lies in governance at all levels. He points out that the managers know what needs to be done but the current situation of lack of budget prevents many of the actions. He also shares that there are educational problems that are decisive in solving some of the problems addressed.

Javier Cabello confesses that the initial objectives of the workshop have changed considerably given the complexity of the topics themselves. He adds that environmental issues have not been contemplated in relation to climate change predictions and, in general, to the drivers of global change. He also considers education in the long term and improved governance in the short term to be relevant and strategic. For him, the need to admit that there are "as many waters" as there are water users is evident. Hermelindo Castro believes that sustainability in water management involves differentiating the spatio-temporal scale on which we look at it. He comments that the province of Almeria shows great complexity, due to the singularity that aridity imposes on human development. He points out that we have to coexist with the reality that surrounds us: desalination plants, water transfers, intensive agriculture, etc. Arid territories represent a puzzle in which we have to learn to fit all the pieces together. Finally, he considers that the key lies in the restrictions imposed by the market, as a very efficient driving force in the promotion of sustainable management practices, which can also be accompanied by strategies such as the promotion of good agricultural or livestock farming practices, the natural park brand, quality seals, etc. Thus, together with political governance, we must not forget that of the market, which we can influence through marketing strategies and environmental certifications.

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