New Spanish regulation on groundwater protection

On 22 October it was issued Royal Decree 1514/2009 regulating the protection of groundwater against pollution and deterioration.

The legal framework of this Royal Decree is formed by Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD) in particular Article 17, and Directive 20006/118/EC.

The main objectives are to prevent or limit groundwater pollution and to establish criteria and procedures to assess their chemical status. It also establishes measures to identify and reverse/change significant and sustained trends to increase the concentrations of pollutants, and prevent or limit migration of pollutants into groundwater.

The Royal Decree is aimed at basin organizations as well as the Autonomous Communities.

To meet the objectives of the Decree these bodies must:

  • evaluate the chemical status of a body or group of groundwater bodies, including the definition of reference values;
  • identify any trend towards increasing the concentrations of pollutants, groups of pollutants or indicators of pollution detected in bodies or groups of groundwater bodies at risk, as well as define the starting points for trend reversals, and
  • carry out the necessary actions for the measures program provided to be sufficient to prevent or limit the migration of pollutants into the groundwater.
    The Royal Decree is very generic on this last point (measures to prevent or limit the entry of pollutants). More specific aspects could be developed in successive legislative arrangements.

The Decree does not provide reference levels of pollutants but defines, in Annex II, the guidelines for the competent agencies to develop these levels. However, Annex I, which includes the quality standards for groundwater, establishes the following values (as listed in Directive 2006/118/EC): 50 mg/l for nitrate, 0.1 μg/l for pesticide active substances and 0.5 μg/l for the sum of all pesticides detected.

From the standpoint of licenses and permits, agencies will have to include the provisions of this Decree on the granting of authorization for groundwater discharges.

Thus, this Decree is the basic tool for the development of reference values to assess the chemical status of groundwater either with the aim of prevention or with the purpose of correction.

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