Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Adaptation of Water for Rice in a Coastal Wetland (Doñana, Spain)


The climate challenge

The Doñana region is a coastal wetland in the Guadalquivir River Basin District of Southern Spain where water is consists of both natural and the artificial wetlands. Droughts have occurred in the region over the past 50 years, however, the frequency and intensity of recent droughts is increasing. The community in the region is starting to understand that climate change and drought specifically is an environmental impact that to an extent can be managed through adaptation measures. Climate change and drought frequency, therefore, is changing the long term perception of the community towards understanding drought as a risk to be managed and not necessarily an unavoidable catastrophic event. The Doñana region is also experiencing a variety of other environmental pressures: the coastal area is vulnerable to sea level rise and the potential increase of irrigation demand is very high.

The policy strategies undertaken so far have been capable to deal with extreme situations, but ineffective to solve the budding conflict among users which are expected to become more complex, particularly between agriculture and the environment. Rice production in the region is water intensive and requires irrigation. Agricultural subsidies have financially supported the income of farmers, but these subsidies have also proppsed up the industry and thus distorted the price consideration between water needs and agriculture production.

Freshwater resources are predicted to become further stressed as a result of climate change and other realities such as increased population, pollution problems from agriculture intensification and fragmented or uncoordinated adaptation policy strategies. There is a definitive need to reach a balance between the contending user needsthrough flexible adaptation options.


The adaptation response

Three relevant adaptation measures were identified. The first was the implementation of existing climate change adaptation plans for drought and water conservation. The second was the restablishment and restoration of riparian buffers. The third was the restoration and management of coastal wetlands.


The people and institution involved

Four stakeholder groups were identified based by criteria of those most likely to be affected by adaptation policies and evaluated their power and influence in the adaptation decision  making process. The four identified groups were farmers who had the most to gain or lose, the local institutions responsible for decision making, and the citizens and environmentalists. Some 90% of farmers in Doñana belong to a farmers organization and these were the main representative bodies involved (i.e. Farmer Advisory Services, Irrigation Communities, Cooperatives, or Rice Farming Federations and Unions). At the local government level, the River Basin Authorities represented the public officials with control over water resources policy, water management and irrigation planning. Finally, a long standing environmentalist organization represented nature welfare claiming more water for the natural wetland. In this particular case, the four stakeholder groups had strong disagreement about water management.


The outcome of action

In a first step the study aimed to characterise the shortage of water using the WAAPA model. This diagnostic step quantifies the potential water availability changes in the larger basin and the locality of Doñana. The simulations of water availability in all sub-basins range from -45 to -93% of current water availability. In a second step, the choices that relevant stakeholders have were explored depending on different agronomic, water management and governance measures. Measures related to water management are then selected to provide a quantitative estimation of their effectiveness.

A major limitation derived from the consultation process was that the sample size of stakeholders was quite small and not comprehensive. The strongly different views of the stakeholder groups on water management may have also contributed to some degree of mistrust and lack of response.

Despite these uncertainties and limitations, the results obtained show a qualitative picture for future water availability in Doñana and the Guadalquivir basin under a choice of adaptation policy options derived from the consultation. The findings of the case study advance the knowledge of different climate change strategies at the local level by providing increased comprehension of stakeholders and the conflicts that exist between them regarding specific adaptation options.



Ana Iglesias:, Department of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences, Technical University of Madrid (UPM), Madrid, Spain.


Full Report

The full report of this case study can be read here.


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