On 8 December 2020, Spanish member of the European Parliament (MEP) Jordi Solé of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“The Galician Government plans to abstract drinking water from the River Deza (Lalín), in an area of the Natura 2000 network containing endangered species. This could cause significant ecological damage, as the plan is in breach of Spain’s National Hydrological Plan, which has designated this river a ‘Natural River Reserve’ protected from ‘future supply abstractions’. Therefore, according to Law 11/2005 on hydrological planning, such a plan could only be justified if there are no alternatives. No alternatives have been proposed and the decision is in breach of the Water Framework Directive.
Does the Commission think that the Galician authorities should do more to find alternatives, as proposed by the law transposing the directive, in order not to damage a river declared to be of high ecological interest?”
On 2 February 2021, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “ Under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), authorities must ensure the register of areas designated as requiring special protection as well as identify and protect those waters used for the abstraction of drinking water. While the ‘Reserva Natural Fluvial<QT.END>’ </QT.END> deserves a protection scheme according to the Spanish legislation, the area is also designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the Habitats Directive.
The Commission is not aware of the referred project. Therefore, it cannot determine whether the water abstraction project would lead to a deterioration of the status of the Deza River, or compromise the achievement of good status, in which case the project should undergo a full assessment under Article 4(7) of the WFD and comply with all conditions set out therein. This includes in particular proving that there is no significantly better environmental option. In addition, this project would need to undergo an appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive.
Without prejudice to the Commission’s powers as guardian of the Treaties, the relevant Spanish authorities, in this case Xunta de Galicia, are primarily responsible for the implementation of EU legislation.”
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