63% of the bodies of water in Catalan rivers are in “poor condition”, according to community criteria, and seven out of 10 aquifers are contaminated, according to the data collected by the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) in a previous document to the River Basin District Management Plan 2022-2027, pending approval. In an exhaustive report, the technicians especially warn of the high presence of nitrates in groundwater. “There is no clear improvement in the last 19 years,” they warn. Bad data takes the community away from the total decontamination target set by the European water directive for 2027.
The parameter used by the public water management agency analyzes, with data from 2019, both the biological state, for which the presence of flora and fauna is taken into account, as well as the chemical. About to close the current planning cycle (2016-2021), the only waters that today would meet the objectives set for the end of 2021 would be coastal (61% in good condition). Although since 2015 those in the river have improved by 2% (from 35% to 37%) and those in wet areas by 10% (from 25% to 35%), the lift is insufficient and does not compensate for the collapse of reservoirs (with a drop of 23%) and aquifers (11%).
Rivers. Within the waters considered in “poor condition” by the Generalitat, those of the Llobregat, Anoia, Besòs rivers and the last stretch of La Tordera and Ter fail to meet both the biological and chemical criteria.
The Llobregat river, once the most industrialized in Spain and the cradle of the Catalan textile industry, continues to bear the ravages of mining activity in the Bages region. Although the ACA technicians highlight the improvement of the river in the last two decades in chloride levels, they also warn that the decontamination objectives have not been assumed “in a significant and permanent way.” The Francolí River is also of concern, which in 2015 went from being in “good condition” to detecting pesticides.
Aquifers. Far from subsiding, the historical problem of nitrates in groundwater already affects 68% of the aquifers. The contaminated areas are located on the outskirts of the capital, the coastline and pre-coastline of Tarragona and Barcelona, and the areas of large agricultural production (Lleida, Central Catalonia, Plana de Vic, Manol and Muga basins, Baix Penedès and Les Terres del Ebre ). “Most coincide with the delimitation in vulnerable areas by nitrates of agricultural origin”, detail the technicians. “We trusted that the ACA was doing its job and after seeing the data we were amazed. It is inexplicable that after so many years effective measures are still not taken. We will reach 2027 and sanctions will fall on us ”, alerts Quim Pérez, member of Ecologistas en Acción.
The European Commission (EC) gave a ultimatum last June to Spaina to face the problem and warned of the shortcomings of Catalonia to monitor contaminated soils. In the analyzes that according to ACA sources are currently being carried out, it will be possible to verify whether the measure of limiting the extensions of pig farms, taken by the Generalitat in 2019, will have a tangible effect or not.
Reservoirs Gaia (Tarragonès), Foix (Alt Penedès) and Sau (Osona) show the greatest signs of poor condition. The first two, both small, suffer urban, industrial and agricultural discharges. Foix is the reservoir that historically has always been worse, the report details, due to its low capacity for renovation. In Sau, the ACA has detected lead and in Baells (Berguedà) additives. Of 12 reservoirs, 8 do not contain chemicals.
Coastal waters. They are the only ones that today would meet the objectives set for the end of 2021. The water of Roses-Castelló d’Empúries, Blanes-Pineda de Mar, Mataró-Montgat, Barcelona-Port de Barcelona, and Ametlla de Mar, has improved compared to 2015. On the other hand, Canyelles (in the Bay of Roses), has worsened due to the invasion of an invasive algae. The waters where a chemical non-compliance is detected are those of the mouth of the Besòs river and the Llobregat river in Barcelona.
Humid areas. The best preserved They are those found in little urbanized areas in the upper parts of the basins. “Within the protected areas, such as in the Aiguamolls del Empordà, specific breaches of biological indicators have been detected, and in areas such as the Llobregat delta and La Tordera, masses in poor chemical condition are added due to the presence of metals”, detail the technicians in the report.
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