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The Aquae Chair establishes five types of indicators to measure the circular economy in water in Spain


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Our country leads the way in water reuse in Europe: more than 10% of treated wastewater is reused, compared to the European average of 2.4%.

The Aquae Chair in Water Economics, promoted by National Distance Education University (UNED) and the Hidraqua Aquae Foundation, proposes five indicator categories to assess the current situation, trends in recent years and opportunities for improving the circular economy in water in Spain. The aim is to help our economy become circular and thus fully sustainable and competitive by 2030.

The government-promoted Spanish Circular Economy Strategy (EEEC), launched in 2017, establishes a number of successive action plans to make the circular economy a reality in our country by 2030. To assess these actions, the EEEC has identified a number of indicators for different areas of action.

A study produced by the Aquae Chair providing the catchment indicators for the period 2000-2014 shows that water catchment in Spain was mainly allocated to agriculture (70% of the total), followed by urban water (17%) and groundwater harvested directly by companies using their own facilities and equipment (13%). These data show that only 17% of water catchment in Spain is treated for subsequent use as drinking water, while 83% is drawn by users themselves (agriculture and industry).

In general, water use indicators reveal that users have gone to great efforts to improve efficiency in their water use. Companies reduced the intensity of their water use by 40% between 2000 and 2014, followed by homes, who reduced their water use per person by over 20%, to 132 litres per inhabitant per day (2014). By contrast, agriculture made the least effort, as figures from 2000 were almost the same as for 2014.

Sanitation and reuse indicators show the volume of wastewater that is treated. In 2014, 10.74% of water treated in over 2,000 wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) in Spain was reclaimed for subsequent reuse in agriculture (62%), green zone irrigation (20%) and industry (7%). The Community of Valencia (59%), Murcia (50%) and the Balearic Islands (45%) were the regions with the highest percentage of reuse of treated water in 2014. ‘These figures place Spain at the head of wastewater reuse, while the average for Europe is 2.4%’, noted the director of the Aquae Chair.