Currently, the Júcar River Basin District has 25 groundwater bodies (24%) that exceed the quality norm on nitrates. These bodies are mainly located on the coastal areas of the basin district.
In the 1980s, an excessive increase of nitrate concentration occurred, attaining, in the present days and in certain areas, values of up to 200 mg/l. These high values can undermine the achievement of the good status of those water bodies.
It is necessary to mention Council Directive 91/676/EEC of 12 December 1991 concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources, transposed into the Spanish legal order by means of Royal Decree 261/1996. This Directive has the objective to reduce pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources and to take preventive action against new pollution from these sources, while imposing the obligation on member states to identify water bodies that are affected by nitrate pollution from agricultural sources, or at risk of being affected.
As laid down in the regulations in force, vulnerable areas to nitrate pollution from agricultural sources are classified by the regions Ccomunidades Autónomas in Spain) in their respective fields, while affected water bodies are identified by the central administration. The order in the designation is such that the affected waterbodies are designated first, followed by the vulnerable areas.
In addition, the regions are entrusted to draft the action plans and programmes, including enhanced agricultural practices. The observed evolution of nitrate concentration on water bodies, reveals that it is necessary to foresee additional measures such as establishing nitrogen inputs, applied according to the quality of the irrigation water. The river basin management plan, approved by Royal Decree, can be an essential tool to establish those measures.
In order to do so and due to the fact that the competences are shared between the different administrations, it is necessary to set up coordinating measures between them. Indeed, whilst the regional administration is competent for issues related to agriculture and farming, the central administration, through the respective basin authorities, is responsible for the management of the Water Public Domain.