Leveraging data to improve the health of the Ebro River

Spain

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Find out how a digital approach to data collection and reporting is key to evaluating the ecological state of the Ebro River Basin in Spain.

Industrial and intensive agriculture practices have put pressure on the ecological and chemical health of many of Spain’s major rivers.  

For this reason, the Spanish government is assessing the ecological, chemical, and physiochemical state of all rivers, lakes and reservoirs in compliance with national regulations and the EU’s pioneering Water Framework Directive (WFD).  

We are leading a joint venture to coordinate the assessment of the Ebro River Basin, the largest in Spain. As well as being one of Spain’s longest rivers, the Ebro has the highest flow and provides water to more than three million people. 

This is a large and critically important project with an allocated budget of €7.3 million over five years. The goal is that the Ebro River Basin achieves good status (or higher) by 2027, in line with the WFD. 

The project involves coordinating companies involved in tasks such as sampling, analysis, and reporting. However, given the volume and complexity of information needed to assess the entire basin, digitising and automating the data collection process has been key. 

The goal is that the Ebro River Basin achieves good status (or higher) by 2027, in line with the EU’s Water Framework Directive. 

In-depth environmental analysis 

Our team is directly responsible for the on-going collection and analysis of data relating to key indicators of ecological health, including: 

  • Physicochemical sampling of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs 
  • Biological sampling  
    • in rivers (macroinvertebrates, macrophytes and diatoms) 
    • in lakes and reservoirs (phytoplankton, invertebrates and macrophyte) 
  • Hydro morphological inspection visits, taking measurements and calculating the metrics offsite  
  • Fishing sampling  
  • Biota and sediment sampling  
  • Laboratory analysis of macroinvertebrates and phytoplankton 

We use the data to calculate the current state of the water within the river basin, presenting the information in a series of annual reports for the client, the Department for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO). 

A digital-first approach to data delivery 

As we were appointed to coordinate several different companies within this joint venture, working out a strategy for managing large quantities of data was an important first step.  

Our response to this challenge was to create a comprehensive, user-friendly database to bring field and lab data together in one place. We also decided to automate the chemical and ecological status calculations. 

This digital-first delivery approach is of benefit in several ways. Firstly, we have accurate, up-to-date information on the ecological state of the river basin at any given time. Secondly, by digitising the information, we can present the data in the formats required by MITECO, speeding up the verification process so that there are no delays to the public release of information.   

Access to detailed and verified water quality data is a vital stepping stone towards tighter control and the ultimate protection and restoration of the Ebro catchment area.