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"We either change traditional water management to adapt it to climate change, or we will fail"

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  • "We either change traditional water management to adapt it to climate change, or we will fail"

About the entity

CAF Development Bank of Latin America
CAF is a development bank committed to improving the quality of life for Latin Americans. We promote sustainable development and regional integration.
Global Omnium
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The 5th Water Dialogues, to be held in Madrid on October 2nd, are annual meeting fora held to discuss different topics, in order to promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences on issues of interest for the water sector between Latin America and Spain. This time, the focus will be 'Water and resilience to the effects of climate change'.

We have interviewed Manuel Menéndez, Water Director General at the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition, on the occasion of this event.

Question: What does it mean for Spain to host this 5th edition of the Latin America-Spain Water Dialogues?

Answer: The consolidation of an event whose technical quality is already well established in the sector. Furthermore, both the dialogues and the technical visits that are organised concurrently enable collaboration between Latin America and Spain, leading to many joint projects.

Q: Which do you think are the most pressing issues to be addressed?

A: 'Water and resilience to the effects of climate change' says it all; it is quite a statement of purpose. We either change traditional water management to adapt it to climate change, or we will fail, not only from the point of view of environmental preservation, but also concerning economic development. The same as energy is the key factor in climate change mitigation policies, water is the key factor in climate change adaptation policies.

Both the dialogues and the technical visits that are organised concurrently enable collaboration between Latin America and Spain, leading to many joint projects

Q: How do you think that climate change might influence the incidence of droughts and floods in Spain? How does this affect water management in Spain?

A: There is a lot of evidence now showing that climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme hydro-meteorological phenomena. The Spanish national meteorology agency (AEMET) has registered unprecedented data for the precipitations that caused flooding recently in the Segura river basin; on the other hand, we are experiencing the third driest year since 1965.

Water management cannot ignore this evidence, which affects all areas: seeking new water sources, prevention, control and protection against floods, safety of water infrastructure, etc.

Q: What planning tools are being used to contemplate extreme hydro-meteorological events in river basin management in Spain?

A: The measures authorities should adopt to deal with drought and flood situations must not only be emergency measures to respond to crises; these situations should also be addressed at the planning stage, through risk management. The ultimate goal is to minimise the environmental, social and economic impact of these phenomena.

Under circumstances of water scarcity due to drought, water resource management is guided by special Drought Plans which are unique in Europe

Under circumstances of water scarcity due to drought, water resource management is guided by special Drought Plans which are unique in Europe. Their last review was published in December 2018.

Regarding defence from floods, the main planning tool are Flood Risk Management Plans. The purpose of these plans is to enable coordinated action by all authorities involved, as well as society at large, to reduce the negative consequences of floods, based on programmes of measures that each authority must apply as per its jurisdiction, to reach the intended goal. Last April, we completed the review and update of the preliminary flood risk assessments in river basins that expand beyond more than one region; currently, a review of the hazard and risk maps is undergoing a process of public information.

I would also like to highlight the upcoming approval of the Dam Safety Regulations that address dam classification based on risk, as well as dam design, construction, operation and decommissioning.