A Spanish National Water Council meeting, chaired by Ecological Transition minister, Teresa Ribera, was held yesterday afternoon in Madrid. At the meeting, information was provided on the process for the drafting of third-cycle river basin management plans in all inter-community river basin districts (competence of the Spanish State) and on the National Water Treatment, Sanitation, Efficiency, Saving and Reuse Plan (Plan DSEAR). The minister announced that both initiatives will enter the public consultation stage on October 19.
The guidelines document for the National Water Treatment, Sanitation, Efficiency, Saving and Reuse Plan includes the catalogue of initiatives in these areas outlined in the river basin management plans. This document also establishes the pillars for the setting of general (economic, social and environmental) criteria, which will enable the feasibility of measures and actions to be studied and prioritised. It will also define the role of the different public authorities and their responsibilities in the design, evaluation, construction and operation of the envisaged initiatives.
At the moment, the Ministry is placing absolute priority on resolving issues of non-compliance with the Directive on urban wastewater treatment in nine urban areas with populations of over 15,000. Failure to comply with the Directive caused the European Court of Justice to impose a lump-sum sanction of €12 million on Spain last June. On top of this, the ECJ will impose a further penalty payment of €11 million every six months until these obligations are complied with.
But these are not the only cases that might result in economic sanctions. Of just under 2,100 urban areas with populations of over 2,000 in Spain, almost 550 still fail to comply with urban wastewater treatment requirements, according to the biennial informative report on Autonomous Communities. Priority action will also have to be taken in these cases.
For this reason, the Plan DSEAR will establish the criteria to prioritise some initiatives over others amongst the 3,500 wastewater treatment and sanitation measures contained in Spanish river basin management plans. These plans will account for investment estimated at around €10 billion in the coming 18 years.
The ultimate goal of the Plan DSEAR is to guarantee sustainable management of the integrated urban water cycle and to endow management scenarios with greater transparency. Special emphasis will be placed on availing of the potential of wastewater treatment in order to make progress in terms of the circular economy, energy efficiency, energy generation (e.g., the use of WWTP sludge to generate energy) and reuse.