Water Resources Management

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 725–737 | Cite as

Recycled Sewage - A Water Resource for Dry Regions of Southeastern Spain

  • Encarnación Gil-Meseguer
  • Miguel Borja Bernabé-CrespoEmail author
  • José María Gómez-Espín


The latitude and layout of the Betic orography make southeastern Spain one of the driest climatic regions in Europe. Most of its territory is part of the Segura Hydrographic Demarcation (DHS). The DHS features a water resources vs water demands deficit equal to 480 hm3/year (1 hm3 = 100 m3) during the 2009–2015 hydrologic planning period. A new paradigm for water policy in Spain has emerged for the hydrological planning period (2016–2021), which calls for a greater contribution of unconventional resources (desalination and reuse of municipal sewage). The investment made in the DHS, in terms of sewage purification and regeneration, produces about 110 hm3/year of purified sewage annually. Irrigation is the main consumer of these reuse flows. Irrigation districts develop conveyance and storage infrastructure to import treated sewage from Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and Water Regeneration Stations (WRSs). Anthropogenically-caused climate change has brought additional stress on surface water and groundwater, thus making water recycling an important component of the water supply portofolio in Spanish arid regions. Recycled water increases the resources of semi-arid regions (up to 10% of total resources), like in the Southeast of Spain. It is of great social value as it contributes to water safety, economic dynamism and biodiversity. Investment made in this sector and public policies make possible the implementation of recycling system, turning this limited resource into a social, political and economic interest, reaching levels of 99.5% purified and 97% reused in Murcia. Similar regions could import this management system and the concessionary model of reclaimed water. In dry regions, these water management models make recycled water, rather than an alternative, a significant complement to local water resources.


Recycled water Purification Sewage reuse Sewage Segura hydrographic demarcation Southeastern Spain 



Dr. Hugo A. Loáiciga of the University of California at Santa Barbara provided valuable recommendations for the writing of this work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest



  1. Aldaya MM, Custodio E, García J, Fernández MF, Llamas MR (2017) Análisis académico del Plan Hidrológico de la Demarcación Hidrográfica del Segura 2015-2021 a la luz de modernos conceptos de la ciencia de los recursos del agua. Fundación Botín. 82 pGoogle Scholar
  2. Gil E (2014) El Sureste peninsular. Rasgos de un medio semiárido como el de Pulpí y su entorno. In: El dinamismo del regadío de Pulpí. Comunidad de Regantes de Pulpí, MurciaGoogle Scholar
  3. Gil A (2016) Acondicionamiento, rectificación y regulación del Segura. Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alicante, AlicanteGoogle Scholar
  4. Gleick P (2010) Roadmap for sustainable water resources in southwestern North America. Proc Natl Acad Sci (PNAS) 107(50):21300–21305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gómez JM (Coord.) (2017) El Trasvase Tajo-Segura. Propuestas para su continuidad y futuro. Editorial Académica Española, SaarbruckenGoogle Scholar
  6. Grant SB, Saphores JD, Feldman DL, Hamilton AJ, Fletcher TD, Cook PLM, Stewardson M, Sanders BF, Levin LA, Ambrose RF, Deletic A, Brown R, Jiang SC, Rosso D, Cooper WJ, Marusic I (2012) Taking the “waste” out of “wastewater” for human water security and ecosystem sustainability. Science 337:681–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Leverenz HL, Tchobanoglous G, Asano T (2011) Direct potable reuse: a future imperative. Journal of Water Reuse and Desalination 01(1):2–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Loáiciga HA (2015) Managing municipal water supply and use in water-starved regions: looking ahead. J Water Resour Plan Manag 141(1):01814003/1–01814003/4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. McCann B (2012) Wastewater reuse brings life back to Spain’s Segura river. Water 21:28–33Google Scholar
  10. McDonnell RA (2014) Circulations and transformations of energy and water in Abu Dhabi’s hydrosocial cycle. Geoforum 57:225–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Melgarejo J, Gómez I (2016) Depuración y reutilización de aguas en España. Agua y Territorio 8:22–35Google Scholar
  12. Mujeriego R (1994) La reutilización planificada del agua: elemento básico de la gestión de los recursos hidráulicos. In: Recursos hidrogeológicos y recursos hidráulicos no convencionales. Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Transporte y Medio Ambiente, MadridGoogle Scholar
  13. Qadir M, Wichelns D, Raschid-Sally L, McCornick PG, Drechsel P, Bahri A, Minhas PS (2010) The challenges of wastewater irrigation in developing countries. Agric Water Manag 97:561–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rico AM, Olcina J, Paños V, Baños C (1998) Depuración, desalación y reutilización de aguas en España. Oikos-Tau, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  15. Ródenas MA (2002) La reutilización del recurso. La Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura (1926–2001). 75° Aniversario. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, CHS, MurciaGoogle Scholar
  16. Ródenas MA, Albacete M (2014) The river Segura: reclaimed water, recovered river. Journal of Water Reuse and Desalination 4(1):50–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rodríguez JP, De Caldas FJ (2009) Selección técnico–económica del sistema de depuración de aguas residuales. Tecnología del Agua 306:22–31Google Scholar
  18. Rygaard M, Binning PJ, Albrechtsen HJ (2011) Increasing urban water self-sufficiency: new era, new challenges. J Environ Manag 92:185–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Scruggs CE, Thomson BM (2017) Opportunities and challenges for direct potable water reuse in arid inland communities. J Water Resour Plan Manag 143(10)Google Scholar
  20. Sowers J, Vengosh A, Weinthal E (2011) Climate change, water resources, and the politics of adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa. Clim Chang 104:599–627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Trapote A (2016) Tecnologías de depuración y reutilización: nuevos enfoques. Agua y Territorio 8:48–60Google Scholar
  22. UNITED NATIONS (2015) Sustainable development goals. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 [November 3, 2018]

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Encarnación Gil-Meseguer
    • 1
  • Miguel Borja Bernabé-Crespo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • José María Gómez-Espín
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of MurciaMurciaSpain
  2. 2.Predoctoral fellow (FPU)Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of SpainMadridSpain
  3. 3.Research Visiting Scholar at University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

Personalised recommendations