Don't blame the drought for drying out Doñana

Posted on September, 05 2022

The Doñana wetland in Spain has dried out - a disaster for one of Europe's most important and protected ecosystems and for the people & nature that depend on it.
WWF has been working to protect, conserve and sustainably manage Doñana for over 50 years - and is committed to doing everything it can to save this extraordinary wetland.

Stuart Orr, WWF Global Freshwater Lead

“It beggars belief that the irreplaceable Doñana wetlands are now bone dry. Drought and climate change have played their part but let’s be crystal clear - one of Europe’s most protected and important ecosystems has been looted of its water, sucked dry by illegal fruit farms as well as poorly regulated legal ones, unsustainable beach resorts and craven politicians.

For decades, Spanish authorities have turned a blind eye to the destruction of Doñana, emboldening people to illegally drain, divert, pollute and destroy the rivers and wetlands that sustain communities, economies and wildlife. This is the result - Doñana is dry and dying.

And when Doñana runs dry, it’s not just the flamingoes and endangered Iberian lynx that will suffer. Farms and drinking water will run dry too. Communities will pay the price. And there is no silver bullet. Water transfers won't solve the problem because every other basin has its own water challenges and there is no sustainable way to pipe water from other stressed basins to Donana.

When will businesses and governments wake up to the risks to the rivers, lakes and wetlands that underpin our societies? Risks that are worsening as climate change makes a mockery of poor planning, politics and weak institutions - and a total inability of most people in power to value water and freshwater ecosystems.

When will governments and businesses realize that 20th century thinking is what got us into this mess and start taking a different approach? When will they actually stop talking about sustainability and actually start taking action to sustainably manage our priceless freshwater resources?

WWF is calling on the Spanish authorities to immediately close all the illegal farms around Doñana and the wells for the Matalascañas resorts that are drying out the unique lagoons in the coastal dune area of the National Park. The authorities must also implement plans to restore this World Heritage wetland, which will boost biodiversity and build climate resilience.

Doñana is part of our shared global heritage. It is too important for people and nature to be sacrificed for the profit of a few farmers and resort owners, and the short-sighted blindness of politicians.”

Juan Carlos del Olmo, Secretary General of WWF Spain:

“It is unacceptable that hundreds of illegal irrigation wells for berries and pools in beach resorts are being filled with water from the Matalascañas aquifer, while the Doñana National Park has dried up completely. The inaction of the administrations to protect one of the most important wetlands in Europe is inexcusable, especially when Spain has been condemned by the European Court of Justice for precisely this reason and must comply with the court’s order immediately.

We are facing one of the worst moments in the history of Doñana. WWF is not going to stop campaigning to save this World Heritage Site and to ensure the administrations comply with their conservation obligations."
Donana World Heritage site is now dry due to drought and mismanagement
© WWF-Spain
Dry Donana is a disaster for local communities, livestock and wildlife
© WWF-Spain
WWF campaigners calling for an end to illegal pumping of water in Donana
© WWF-Spain