Educación, Fundación Botín

Mission and objectives

Observatorio del Agua de la Fundación Botín

The Water Observatory aims to serve as an INNOVATIVE think-tank on issues related to WATER POLICY.

The Water Observatory is the first interdisciplinary think-tank for water in Spain. Its work dates back to 1998, and is devoted to issues of governance and integrated water resources management at national and global level.

The Water Observatory is known for its objectivity and scientific rigour using robust data and methodologies, and the best available science and technology. Its analyses combines expertise in the natural sciences with economics and the social sciences, explicitly to offer ideas and provide data that are important when it comes to taking decisions.

The mission of the Water Observatory is to provide innovative solutions to the problems related to water management at different levels. The WO lines of work differ from most classic topics of applied technology, adopting a holistic approach to address the various aspects of water governance and integrated water resources management.

To this end, new concepts are incorporated, such as 1) the water footprint and virtual water trade, 2) the economic and social productivity of water, 3) the water needs of terrestrial ecosystems, and 4) the intangible factors, particularly those related to ethics and transparency.

The Water Observatory activities include three main lines:

  • laboratory of ideas for innovation in water resource management,
  • exchange place for relevant national and international experts in this field, and
  • transfer of new knowledge to society at large, mainly to water decision-makers, with emphasis on governance and water-use efficiency, consistent with the preservation of natural resources.

Brief history of the Water Observatory:

The Water Observatory is the first interdisciplinary think-tank for water in Spain, offering innovative solutions and ideas to address water management problems in Spain and globally. The WO originated in 1998, when the Botín Foundation began its activity in the field of water resources.

It started with the Project on Groundwater in Spain (1998-2003), focused not on issues related to classical hydrogeology and groundwater hydrology, but giving great weight to economic, environmental, legal and social aspects. This project is an international reference for semi-arid countries. In this framework, the First International Seminar on the Intensive use of groundwater was held in 2002. This was followed by two International Seminars organized in Santander and their corresponding publications: Water crisis: Myth or reality?, in 2004, and Water and ethics, held in 2007 and focused on analysing how ethical considerations can play an important and explicit role in the development and management of water.

The Water Observatory of the Botín Foundation was formally created in 2008. The first issue addressed the water footprint of Spain, which sought practical results that would enable a more efficient use of the country's water resources, bearing in mind the processes of global change and Spain's commercial relations with the European Union and the rest of the world.

The same year, the WO published the first study in the world on the water footprint at the basin level entitled Water footprint analysis for the Guadiana river basin (Aldaya and Llamas, 2008). Since then, the WO has issued eight monographs called PAV (Virtual Water Papers - Papeles de Agua Virtual), five monographs named SHAN documents (Water and Food Security and Care of Nature - Seguridad Hídrica y Alimentaria y Cuidado de la Naturaleza) and a book with the title Water footprint and virtual water trade in Spain: Policy implications (Garrido et al., 2010) with the seal of the prestigious Springer publishing house. This book has had a great impact since it is the first time that the Spanish water footprint and virtual water trade were estimated with high level of geographical and sectoral detail, comprising 13 years (1995-2007). This line of work has also led to other publications, such as the Analysis of The extended water footprint of the Guadalquivir basin (Salmoral et al., 2011).

In 2008 the Fourth International Seminar about Re-thinking water and food security was held and the subsequent book published (Martinez-Cortina et al., 2011).

In 2010 the Fifth International Seminar was held with the title Water and food security in a globalized world: Cooperation versus confrontation, which contributions were included in a special issue of the Water Policy journal (Vol. 14, Sup. 1, 2012).

The book Water, agriculture and the environment in Spain: Can we square the circle? was the result of a joint effort of 28 water experts and 5 international reviewers. It is inspired by the affirmation and confirmation that overall water problems in the world are due to poor management rather than to physical water scarcity (De Stefano and Llamas, 2012).

In a globalized world, the water problems in Spain cannot be analysed detached from the rest of the planet. Thus, since 2011, the WO has expanded its work in Latin America in collaboration with national research institutions in the frame of the project Water, food and energy security and care of nature in Spain and Latin America and the Caribbean (Willaarts et al., 2014).

The Sixth International Seminar of the BF in 2012 and its subsequent publication focused on Integrated water resources management in the 21st Century: Revisiting the paradigm (Martinez-Santos et al., 2014).

That was followed by the Seventh and Eighth International Seminars, Water policy and trends in Israel and Spain in 2013 and Water policy tools and trends in Japan and Spain in 2014.

Since the early stages, the BF-WO, with freedom of thought and without submission to the politically correct, has demanded high professionalism, scientific rigor and a concerted effort to find solutions for the Spanish society in the first place, but also for the global village, which today is this blue planet.


Botín Foundation