After a century of massive transformation of surface and groundwater resources for agricultural, industrial, and urban development, water policy in Spain seems to be reaching a turning point. The National Water Plan (NWP) of 1993, insisting on the postulates of what we call the "hydraulic paradigm", envisaged the development of further hydraulic infrastructure, particularly a very ambitious system of long distance water transfers between water rich and water poor basins. The plan, however, generated strong territorial and social opposition, suffered several modifications, and has yet to be approved by the Spanish Parliament. We argue that the reasons behind the failure of the plan lie in structural trends ill suited to the plan philosophy of "water for everybody at no cost", in the new political organization of the state in which regions play a more dominant role, and, to a lesser extent, in environmental pressures. We attempt to illustrate this argument examining how the three key dimensions in the debate, regional, economic, and environmental, have affected the original plan. These dimensions, however, may be also at odds with each other and lead towards a fragmented water policy for the future more prone to social and political turmoil after the relative stability of the hydraulic era. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Water policy