Abstract

Castilla-La Mancha is located in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula. Due to its location, the water resources of this area are essential to the development of the neighbouring coastal regions. These areas have one of the most competitive agricultural systems in the European Union, an important industrial sector and tourism industry, and a high percentage of the Spanish population. For these reasons, the volume of water assigned to cover the demands of Castilla-La Mancha is approximately one third of the generated water resources.

The agricultural sector is the main water consumer in the region (more than 90%), which plays an important economic and social role. The transformation of large rainfed areas into irrigated lands during the last 30 years has limited the emigration of rural populations to cities or other industrialized regions of Spain. The water used for this transformation is mainly groundwater. Due to the lack of previous studies about the natural recharge of the aquifers and to an obsolete legislation, the three main irrigated areas of the region (08.29 Mancha Oriental: 8,500 km2 and 100,000 ha of irrigated land; 04.04 Mancha Occidental: 5,000 km2 and 153,000 ha of irrigated land; and 04.06 Campo de Montiel: 2,500 km2 and 7,000 ha of irrigated land), suffer groundwater overexploitation.

In Castilla-La Mancha there are several institutions that try to optimize the use of water for agriculture and to improve the competitiveness of this sector to achieve sustainable development. In general, all these institutions work together with farmers in carrying out an integral and integrated management of the water resources.

CREA is the only institution that works in the entire region. In consequence, the irrigated areas experience different levels of advisory. In addition, it is necessary to emphasize that, water resources in Castilla-La Mancha are managed by seven different public authorities. This situation, together with the characteristics of each basin, causes a high variability in management methodology.

This paper attempts to elucidate the research, management, and dissemination actions carried out in Castilla-La Mancha, where agriculture is an essential sector with problems of water scarcity due to both semiarid climatic conditions, and the importance of the resources generated in Castilla-La Mancha for the development of other regions.

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