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The Tagus: action before the irreversible occurs

The longest river of the Iberian peninsula, the Tagus flows over a distance of 1,038 km from its source in northern Spain to Lisbon in Portugal, where it reaches the Atlantic. However its condition gives rise for concern.

A severe and long drought that has hit Portugal and Spain for 3 years is affecting the discharge of the river which is drying up. The consequence is that the quality of the water is suffering: the river can no longer clean itself naturally, vegetation and sedimentation is increasing and pollution is worsening.

The Tagus river in Lisbonne

Furthermore, the Tagus is at the heart of disputes over the use of water, that for farmland which needs more water in summer, for drinking water in urban areas, and for cooling nuclear reactors.

A change of consumption is necessary to prevent the river from dying, but it will not be enough. The way the water is managed and how it is withdrawn from the river must change in Spain and Portugal, both of which are obliged to rethink their principles of cooperation.

In particular, agriculture will have key role to play in changing the situation. Indeed, for 40 years, water has been diverted from the Tagus to southeast Spain to supply the tourist provinces of Valence, Alicante, Almeria and above all the fertile land of Murcia. Intensive farming makes up 30% of the country’s exports of fruits and vegetables and is prime economic importance with 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of €5 billion.

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