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Shared Management In Water Resources Planning: The Case Of The Douro River Basin

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Evelyn Zucco, Francisco Costa
University of Minho1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 12: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers,


Approximately 40% of the world population lives in river and lake basins that integrate two or more countries (United Nations-Water, 2008). Lake systems and their corresponding basin often cross political boundaries, making the governance and management of these critical resources very difficult (Servos et al., 2013). Naturally, the utilization of transboundary waters is a potencial source of friction. Sharing water resources "creates intricate diplomatic challenges... [often linking] states in asymmetric upstream/downstream relationships, at a time when pressures on the world's water supplies are increasing" (Conca, Wu and Mei, 2006). Especially for Portugal, the transboundary river management is an issue of extreme relevant, because more than 70% of its rivers come from Spain. The Douro river basin is shared by Portugal and Spain is the largest in the Iberian Peninsula with nearly 100.000 Km², and with a population of 4.2 million. The Douro river has 927 Km long, yours headwaters and more than 500 Km are in Spanish territory and, 208 Km and yours estuary occurs in to Atlantic Ocean, at the city of Porto (Portugal). In the actual context, after the publication of Water Framework Directive (WFD), the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) stands out as recent and innovator instrument in the water management. As a key tool established by the WFD, was adopted in Portugal. The requirement to develop and publish a plan for each river basin district and establish a program of measures has been a strong driver for an integrated approach. Although Portugal has begun on second cycle of water management, still has not provided an integrated plan with Spain. The first cycle of RBMP, through studies associated with the plan, shows that Douro river had impacts significant on water quality and quantity, mainly because of Spain tributaries. These results may provide evidence that a gap exists between management international processes and their outcomes. The important issue is: how to develop the process of management integrated, once that rivers not respect boundaries politics and economics among countries. This paper describes and analyses the partnership between Portugal and Spain, as well as contribute to this literature through a case study of WFD implementations on Portugal.

Material and Methods

In this study, we analyse cooperation between Portugal and Spain on water management with a focus on planning, outcomes and the future. In this planning scenario we tried to assess the contribution of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to develop the programme of measures, based on the analyses the Douro River Basin Management Plan (Portuguese plan - river basin district 3) and the SEA.

Results and Discussion

The method denominated SEA can be seen of different forms, one being as an important step towards integrated decision-making, promoting sustainable development by assessing the strengths, weaknesses and therefore the potential of environmental resources to support development (CSIR, 1996). As an important step this analysis was used for the quantification of the significant impacts on Douro River Basin and helped to develop the programme of measures. The methodology adopted for development of SEA in RBMP was: (1) Stage 1: Scoping; (2) Stage 2: Strategic Assessment of effects; (3) Follow-up (last phase). The Strategic assessment of effects was based on the SWOT analysis (Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities e Threats). SEA analysis showed impacts significant on water quality and quantity, because of Spain tributaries (showed how "threat") (i.e.: (1) The hydropower production in the Douro will be impared by a 14% reduction in inflows of Spain, due to the potential expansion of irrigation in the Spanish basin (2) The RBMP (river basin district 3) not contemplates the recovery of the state of water bodies along the Portuguese-Spanish border). The second assessment of transboundary rivers, lakes and groundwaters (UNECE, 2011) revealed that the main pressure factors in the Douro Basin include flow regulation: there is about 8,000 × 106 m3 total capacity for water storage in the basin. This reflects and contribute with the results obtained by SEA. Other important aspect is related with the PM. The results of the SEA have with objective to assist of the developing the PM. But, when we evaluate the measures established for the river Douro (Annex IV --RBMP) we realize some disagreement with the results found in SEA analysis (Table 1). Only two measures have connection with Spain. Once the result of the SWOT analysis showed as a "threat" to confluence with Spain, the PM should have more importance in this context. In theory, SEA may be a strategic and rationale approach to integrating environmental considerations, but in practice is a complex, dynamic and challenging process (Victor & Agamuthu, 2014). In transboundary basins these plans have to be international or at least internationally coordinated (DQA). (Junier & Mostert, 2012) defines "Coordination" as mutual adjustment of goals and activities between different actors. But they also defines "integration" which goes a bit further and involves the simultaneous consideration of different interests, resulting in one approach. These concepts needs to be revised to result in a integrated water management. In others words, the new challenge for planning is therefore the management of change and uncertainty, which can only be achieved if integration is the guiding principle in devising planning approaches.


Results appear to demonstrate the influence of cooperation, not only in the use of SEA analysis, but in all RBMP (mainly in programme of measures), which in turn suggest the political sensitivity of the instrument and relationship between Portugal and Spain. It is true that in practice changes very slowly when compared to advanced thinking about this analysis. This also can be refers to the current cooperation between Portugal and Spain. 1. Conca, K., Wu, F., and Mei, C. (2006) Global Regime Formation or Complex Institution Building? The Principled Content of International River Agreements. International Studies Quarterly, 50(2), 263–285.

2. CSIR (1996) Strategic Environmental Assessment: A primer. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Stellenbosch, South Africa

3. Junier, S. J., and Mostert, E. (2012) The implementation of the Water Framework Directive in The Netherlands: Does it promote integrated management?. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C, 47-48, 2–10.

4. Servos, M. R., Munkittrick, K. R., Constantin, G., Mngodo, R., Aladin, N., Choowaew, S., … Urrutia, R. (2013) Science and management of transboundary lakes: Lessons learned from the global environment facility program. Environmental Development, 7 (17–31).

5. UNECE (2011) Second assessment of transboundary rivers, lakes and groundwaters. Convention on the protection and use of transboundary watercourses and international lakes, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe,New York and Geneva, 2011.

6. United Nations-Water (2008) Transboundary Water: Sharing benefits, sharing responsabilities. Thematic Paper: Un Water, 16 p.,2008.

7. Victor, D., and Agamuthu, P. (2014) Policy trends of strategic environmental assessment in Asia. Environmental Science & Policy, 41 (63–76).

2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin