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Guadiana River Basin (Spain/Portugal)

Author: Silvia Krautzik

The Guadiana River Basin is a transboundary basin located in Spain and Portugal. It drains a total area of 67.133 km2 (55.513 km2 in Spain, 11.620 km2 in Portugal). The Guadiana River originates in the Spanish province of Cuenca and flows from North to South-West with a length of 852 km (Llams et al., 2013; Palop-Donat et al., 2020).

The Guadiana River Basin played and still plays a crucial role in the region's economic development: Although the Guadiana River Basin is located in a semiarid region, groundwater use has helped transform the rural areas of the basin into agricultural and industrial centers. Historically, the region's economy has mainly depended on wheat, vines, and sheep rearing, but it has evolved into an economically viable region (Llamas et al., 2005; Stratton et al., 2008).

However, the Guadiana River Basin is highly prone to water scarcity, and competition among water users is high, making the management of the Guadiana River Basin a complex task (Llamas et al., 2013; Palop-Dunat et al., 2020). To deal with the water scarcity challenges, Western Europe's largest dam, the Alqueva Dam, was built in 2002.

However, studies focusing on the future developments in the Guadaina basin suggest that water scarcity will remain a key problem in the region. Especially climate change impacts might intensify the water scarcity and increase pressure on the local water resources (Jafroudi 2018).


Figure 1: Guadiana River reaching the Alqueva reservoir



Jafroudi, M. (2018): Climate change and accommodation of water availability in transboundary rivers: lessons learned from the Guadiana basin. Water Policy, 20(2), wp2018178–. doi:10.2166/wp.2018.178

Llamas, M.R., Varela-Ortega, C., De La Hera, A., Aldaya, M.M., Villarroya, F., Martinez- Santos, P., Blanco-Guiterrez, I., Carmona-Garcia, G., Esteve-Bengoechea, P., De Stefano, L., Hernandez-Mora, N., ZORRILLA, P. (2013): The Guadiana basin. In: Mysiak, J.; Henrikson, H.J.; Sullivan, C.; Bromley, J.; Pahl-Wostl, C. (Ed.): The Adaptive Water Resource Management Handbook, pp. 103-116. Oxford: Taylor and Francis. DOI:


Palop-Donat, C., Paredes-Arquiloa, J., Solera, A., & Andreu Álvarez, J. (2020): Comparing performance indicators to characterize the water supply to the demands of the Guadiana River basin (Spain). In: Hydrological Sciences Journal, 65(7), 1060-1074. doi:

Stratton, S. E., Simon, L. K., Marchiori, C. (2008): Promoting Groundwater Reform in the Guadiana Basin. In: American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 90(5), 1343–1349. doi:



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