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1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >

Zaragoza, Saving Water City (Spain)

Para consultar la versión castellana de este documento, pulse aquí.

Reference Date: 26-07-1998

Experience selected in the 1998 Dubai Award for Best Practice, and catalogued as BEST. ( Best Practices Database.)
País/Country: Spain

United Nations Region: Europe
Ecological region: Continental
Activity: City / Town
Partnerships: Multilateral agency. Local government. Regional government. Non-governmental organisation (NGO)

Themes = Environmental Management: resource management. Production and Consumption Patterns: water use and consumption.

Main contact:
Víctor Viñuales Edo
Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo. (Non-governmental organisation)
San Miguel, 49, 2.Dcha.
50001 Zaragoza
Tel: +34-976 22 66 33
Fax: +34-976 22 64 69

Jesús del Barrio
Life Programme (European Union). (Multilateral agency)
Rue de la Loi, 200-BU-5 5/124
1049 Brussels
Tel: +32-2 296 87 86
Fax: +32-2 296 95 61
Type of support: financial

Francisco Meroño
Zaragoza City Council (Department of the Environment). (Local goverment)
Eduardo Ibarra s/n
50009 Zaragoza
Tel: +34-976 72 10 00
Fax: +34-976 72 10 09
Financial support

Manuel Allende
County Council - Province of Zaragoza (Water Department). (Regional government)
Paseo M. Agustín, 36
50071 Zaragoza
Tel: +34-976 71 45 35
Fax: +34-976 71 45 77
Financial support

Organización Nominadora
Marta García Nart
Comité Nacional Español
Paseo de la Castellana, 67
28071 Madrid
Tlf: +34-91 597 75 72
Fax: +34-91 597 86 04

Key Dates

4th June, 1997: presentation of the project in Zaragoza.
21st October, 1997: launch of the project publicity campaign.
April, 1998: presentation of results obtained to date.
October, 1998: finalisation of campaign.


In the year before the project was initiated, 11 million Spaniards were undergoing daily water restrictions. There were serious inter-regional conflicts over this scarce commodity. There seemed to be only one solution: more reservoirs and more water trans-shipments, what means high costs and harm to the environment. In Zaragoza, a city of 700,000 inhabitants in thenorth-east of Spain, as in other cities in Spain, a triple paradox was to emerge: rainfall was scarce and irregular, water was cheap, and it was being misused. February 1997 saw the beginning of the "Zaragoza, the water-saving city" project. This aimed to promote a new water-saving consciousness through a more efficient management of thisresource. It emphasised, above all, the importance of simple technological change to achieve a sustainable reduction in water consumption. The project was to issue a challenge to the city: to save 1,000 million litres of domestic water consumption in one year. The project has shown that it is possible to deal with the shortage of water in cities, using a cheap, ecological, fast and contentious-free approach, by increasing efficiency inconsumption. The most important lesson to be learnt is that the shared responsibility between the main players (manufacturers, retailers, consumers, distributors, plumbers etc) has managed to create a new synergy which favours water-use efficiency.
Up till now, 592 million litres of water have been saved. Spanish cities now have a successful model to follow for the most ecologically-sound method of facing up to the next drought.


1. The situation before the beginning of the intervention
In 1995 there were 11 million citizens in Spain who faced daily water restrictions. At that time there were also demonstrations and confrontations between regions. In those years all the discussion was about how to build new reservoirs, the transfer of water that would be carried out, where to find the vast amount of money required to pay for all this... and a triple paradox emerged: Spain had the world's third highest water-consumption rate per inhabitant, there was little water, and it was very cheap. This misuse of water resources was part of a vicious circle: the lack of any regulations covering water-saving, government policies basedon increasing the supply,ignorance of the existence of water-saving technology enabling more efficient use of water in the home (a survey carried out in Zaragoza before the beginning of the campaign shows that about 60% of those questioned could not remember or were ignorant about water-saving strategies in the home), scant regard for this resource as far as the public was concerned, as well as wasteful water-consumption habits.
The Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo aimed to demonstrate, with this project, that it was possible to solve water-shortage problems but using a cheaper, more ecological, faster and socially contentious-free approach: saving water by increasing efficiency in its use.

Preparing the information and marking priorities

In the planning stage of this project, various priorities were defined with the idea of establishing the bases of a new water-saving awareness:

To carry out this project, the structure of participation was designed as follows: promotion partners, promotion businesses and collaborating concerns. The promotion partners were intended to include institutions whose role would require them to be actively involved in the campaign and would actively and financially contribute to its development. We also needed the support of the business sector connected with the manufacture of products which consumed and/or saved water. Finally, this campaign needed to be diffused among everybody in the city, and so concerns representing various collectives were required to take part in the project.

2. Formulation of objectives and strategies and mobilisation of resources
The project's purpose is to promote a new water-saving awareness, with a rational management of this limited and life-giving natural resource. Specifically, the objective is a saving of 1,000 million litres of water in the homes of the city of Zaragoza in a period of one year. In addition, the final phase of the project will promote the awareness of water-saving measures in industry and for other urban uses (parks, gardens etc.) In order to achieve these aims, the project addresses the following essential topics: to introduce changes in regulations and tariffs, to foster public demand for water-saving technology, to stimulate the water-saving technology market, and to train and inform the sectorAEs professionals.
The projectAEs activities are divided into six strategic measures for saving water:

  1. the acquisition of new water-saving sanitary
    equipment (w.c.AEs, taps, showers etc.);
  2. the installation of water-saving devices in old
  3. the acquisition of water-saving domestic goods (washing machines and dishwashers);
  4. the installation of individual hot-water meters in condominiums with centralised hot-water systems;
  5. any other measure, device or equipment designed to save water (repairing leaks, recycling of household liquid waste etc.) and
  6. changing water-consumption habits.

Actions aimed at the general public. A publicity campaign was launched, whose objective was to inform the public of the project. This campaign consisted of advertisements on TV, radio and the press, leaflets, posters, advertising hoardings, advertising on buses and on Municipal poster sites. A help-line has been set up to inform people of all the technological devices available for water-saving in the home, and where they can be acquired.
Actions aimed at children and young people A specialised education programme has been developed. Resource packs for teachers to use with their students have been produced. Other schemes within the programme are: The Big Book of Water, a book with blank pages for the city's schoolchildren to write their ideas; the Water Card, on which each student thinks up an image and slogan to convince everyone of the need to use this natural resource correctly; and the Water Savings Book, where, by comparing monthly water bills, the savings obtained are entered.

Actions aimed at large-scale consumers. We have approached large-scale domestic water users (hotels, restaurants, bars, gymnasiums etc.) to inform them of the environmental and financial advantages to be gained from saving water. Actions aimed at the business sector. With the business sector (professionals linked to home water-consumption: manufacturers, distributors, retailers, plumbers), direct marketing activities have been realised. One of these has been the "Mystery Shopper" campaign.
This consists of giving prizes to professionals who use water-saving criteria as part of their sales pitch.
The project was drawn up by the Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo -NGO- and presented to the European Union LIFE Programme in May, 1996. The project was approved in November, 1996. As a result of
the previously-described recruitment of participants in the project, the founding partners consisted, together with the European Union LIFE programme and the Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo, of the Zaragoza City Council and the Aragón
Regional Government
. The campaign was also sponsored by a savings bank, Ibercaja. In addition, from the start, four companies, one per technological sector, have been participants.

The project has a budget of nearly 85 million pesetas. Just under 50% of the financing is being provided by the European Union LIFE programme, with the rest being shared between the rest of the partners.

3. The process
There are two phases:

Preparation phase: the realisation of a sociological investigation into the present state of water-saving awareness in Zaragoza; planning the structure of participation; identification, information, education and recruitment of professionals linked to domestic water-saving (manufacturers, distributors, retailers, plumbers); preparation of the publicity campaign and production of publicity materials; and the operational organisation of the campaign.

Execution phase: (setting the campaign in motion for the general public): launch of the publicity campaign; defining collaborators' participation; setting up the educational programme; broadening the structure of participation by entering into agreements with new collaborating concerns; supplying large-scale users with information on water-saving and publicity materials (stickers); and the setting up of the water-saving help-line.
Response on the part of Zaragoza society has been highly positive. Most misgivings have been expressed by the professionals who have received less training, as is the case with plumbers.

4. Achieved results
Although the project, at the time of writing (April 1998) is not yet completed, it has already managed to bring about a change in the cityAEs water-consumption habits. Some of the results obtained up to this moment, through the actions of the various social actors, are evidence of this:

General Public (citizens, large consumers, collaborators)

The Educational Sector
The Administration
The plenary meeting of the City Council of 31st October, 1997, with all-party consensus, decided to set up a water-saving plan in the city, in both domestic and other urban uses.

The Business Sector
The Media
After decades of facing the water-shortage problem with policies involving increasing supply (more reservoirs), regional policy has effected a turn and now recognises that controlling demand is the course to follow. In fact, this April, the Mayoress has decided that it will not be necessary to raise the level of the Yesa reservoir (something which had been mooted to meet the supposed growing demand in Zaragoza).
Participating in the project are key institutions and agents in water-consumption awareness: institutions (regional, local and central government), financial institutions, the business sector (manufacturers, distributors, professionals, large consumers), the educational sector (teachers, students), the media and society in general (associations, consumers).

5. Sustainability

This project seeks to increase water efficiency, and increase productivity. To do more with less, so that the city's waterconsumption can be met in the long term despite regular drought cycles.
This project is feasible because a new synergy has already been created. The interdependence of distributors, consumers, the administration and manufacturers has formed a perfect circle which favours the saving of water. Inertia, from this moment on, is actually encouraging a responsible attitude to water consumption.
The technological change being brought about enables water-saving to be long-lasting and sustainable in the long term.
Since a saving in water consumption also means a saving in money, altruistic motives for improving the environment join forces with purely financial motives, and this double motive is a guarantee of the continuity of the process.

The project proposes the setting up of a municipal policy for water charges which will be a permanent incentive for water-saving. Of the savings obtained a proportion will be spent on maintaining an active policy supporting that process, only out of contributions from local bodies, without having to count on support from the European Union.

The lessons learnt

From an analysis of the most significant studies carried out in domestic water-saving policies (Mexico, Frankfurt, Madrid, Boston etc.), the following needs were noticed:


It is possible to transfer the lessons to be learnt from the project to any city from North to South. One thousand million people have limited access to drinking water. Many Northern and Southern hemisphere cities have shown an interest in the project, such as Lisbon (Portugal), Málaga and Valencia (Spain), Cuzco (Perú) and León (Nicaragua).

The basic criteria of the project are also those of the Plans and Directives of Agenda 21, the Habitat Programme, and the Fifth European Union Programme, i.e. efficiency in the use of natural resources, shared responsibility between businesses, institutions and NGO's, creating a self-sustaining synergy, creating a new environmentally-orientated market, complementing technological, tax and cultural changes, etc.

6. The experience in numbers
Financial Profile

1997 Total Operating Budget 43,2 Million ptas

1998 Total Operating Budget 41,7 Million ptas


The project has obtained a big repercussion in the mass media.
We are talking about national and local press and magazins that are specialized in economics and environment (see press dossier):

"Zaragoza enseñará a ahorrar agua" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 23, February, 1997, p. 12.)

"La Unión Europea prueba en Zaragoza un programa piloto de control del agua" ( Cinco Días, 17 February, 1997)

"La ciudad de Zaragoza pionera en la puesta en marcha de un proyecto para el ahorro de agua" ( ABC, 5 June, 1997, p.71.)

"Zaragoza experimenta un proyecto para ahorrar 1.000 millones de litros de agua al año" ( ABC. 5 June, 1997, p.71.)

"Campaña para ahorrar agua de ínfima calidad" ( Diario de bolsillo, 5 June, 1997, p.2-3) .

"Zaragoza, ciudad ahorradora de agua" (Heraldo de Aragón, 5 June, 1997, p.11.)

"Zaragoza pretende ahorrar mil millones de litros de agua al año" (. El País, 5 June, 1997, p.26.)

"Fomentemos el ahorro de agua" (El periódico de Aragón, 5 June, 1997)

"-Zaragoza, ciudad ahorradora de agua- gana el Premio Henry Ford" ( ABC, 3 April, 1998, p. 53.)

"Galardón europeo para la Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo" (Heraldo de Aragón, 3 April, 1998, p. 13.)

"Campaña de ahorro en hoteles y restaurantes" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 5 April, 1998, p. 16.)

"Una campaña y un premio" ( El Periódico de Aragón, 4 April, 1998. p. 4.)

"La "tarjeta del agua" involucra a los niños en el ahorro: 90 centros escolares participaron en la iniciativa" ( El periódico de Aragón, 5 April, 1998. p. 11)

Cenzano, Arturo "Zaragoza, premio europeo a un proyecto de gestión del agua" ( Cinco Días, 7 April, 1998, p. 19.)

"Primer concurso de narración sobre el agua" ( El Heraldo de Aragón, 12 April, 1998, p.8.)

"Cafés y bares se suman a la campaña del agua" (. El Heraldo de Aragón, 13 April, 1998, p.13.)

"Una nueva cultura para el uso del agua" ( El Periódico de Aragón, 5 June, 1997, p.4.)

"Zaragoza pretende ahorrar mil millones de libros de agua al año" ( El Periódico de Aragón 5 June, 1997, p.12)

"Proyecto piloto para ahorrar agua" ( El Periódico de Aragón; 5 June, 1997, p.15.)

"Apoyan un estudio para el uso racional del agua" ( El Periódico de Aragón; 25 June, 1997, p. 8.)

"Gestión del agua" ( Dossier del Medio Ambiente, 1 July, 1997, p. 3.)

"Balay, empresa promotora de Zaragoza, ciudad ahorradora de agua" ( ABC, 4 July, 1997, p. 61.)

"Ahorro de agua en Zaragoza contará con Balay: la empresa prestará ayuda económica" ( El Periódico de Aragón; 4 July, 1997, p. 11.)

"Un acuímetro urbano medirá el ahorro de agua: Formará parte de un proyecto piloto de Ecología y Desarrollo, que será subvencionado por la DGA con quince millones" ( El Períodico de Aragón; 10 July, 1997, p.11.)

"Zaragoza será pionera en el ahorro de agua" (El Heraldo de Aragón, 30 July, 1997,p.5. Ensayo europeo en Zaragoza para ahorrar agua. Cinco Días, 25 August, 1997, p.3.)

"Zaragoza, ciudad ahorradora de agua" ( Revista Ciclos. September, 1997, p. 30)

Viñuales Edo, V. "Zaragoza, ciudad ahorradora de agua" ( Revista La Carpeta, October, 1997, p. 30.)

"Noticias del agua: ante el reto de ahorrar" ( El Heraldo de Aragón, 19 October, 1997, p. 13.)

"Zaragoza emprende una ambiciosa campaña para ahorrar 1.000 millones de litros de agua: Organizada por la Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo, dura hasta el 5 de noviembre" ( ABC, 21, October, 1997, p.53.)

"La ciudad puede ahorrar 1.000 millones de litros al año" ( El Heraldo de Aragón, 1 October, 1997, p. 4.)

"Agua que no has de beber" ( El Periódico de Aragón, 21 October, 1997, p. 6.)

"Iniciativa urbana para modular los grifos" ( El Periódico de Aragón, 21 October, 1997, p. [s.p.].)

"Los dispositivos para evitar el derroche ya dan resultados en todo el mundo" (, El Periódico de Aragón 21, October, 1997, p. 6)

"Teléfono del agua" ( El Periódico de Aragón, 1, October, 1997, p. 6)

"Viñeta gráfica" ( El Periódico de Aragón 21 October, 1997 p. 7)

"Un bien escaso" (, El Heraldo de Aragón, 26, October, 1997 p. 13.)

"Berdié pide Ahorro público" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 29, October, 1997. p. 4.)

"Berdié pide un plan de Ahorro de agua" ( Periodico de Aragón, 31, October, 1997. p. 8 )

"Empresas pioneras" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 2, November, 1997, p16.)

"Zaragoza, ciudad ahorradora de agua" ( ABC, 3, November, 1997,p. 59-64.)

"Teléfono del agua para consumidores ahorrativos" (Cinco días, 4 November, 1997, p. 3.)

"CC.OO. promueve viviendas ahorradoras de agua" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 5, November, 1997, p.10.)

"CCOO se suma a la campaña para ahorrar agua" (Periódico de Aragón, 5, November, 1997, p14.)

"Los centros educativos conocen la campaña" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 9 November, 1997, p15.)

"Zaragoza, ciudad ahorradora de agua se presenta en Bruselas" (ABC , 14, November, 1997, p. 55.)

"Una guía para compartir experiencias" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 22 November, 1998, p. 13.)

"Colaboración universitaria" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 30 November, 1997,p. 21)

"Teléfono para el ahorro de agua" ( Tecnología del Agua, N. 171, December, 1997)

"Ahorro de agua y la guía del Parque Grande" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 3 December, 1997, p. 6.)

"Arranca el Gran Libro del Agua" ( Heraldo de aragón, 7 December, 1997, p. 17.)

"Consumir hasta un 21% menos" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 14 December, 1997, p. 17.)

"Rudi y 400 escolares presentan el gran libro del agua" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 19 December, 1997, p. 16.)

"Zaragoza, ciudad ahorradora de agua" ( CC.OO. Aragón-Trabajo sindical, January, 1998, p. 13)

"Ahorrar hasta la última gota" ( Revista integral, January, 1998, p. 19.)

"Ahorrar Agua" ( Presentación oficial del Gran Libro del Agua. Heraldo de Aragón, 4 January, 1998)

"Ahorrar Agua. Disminuir el consumo reduce la polución" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 18 January, 1998.)

"Droguerías y ferreterías con la campaña" ( Heraldo de Aragón; 1 March, 1998)

"Las ferreterías y las droguerías, contra el gasto de agua" (Periódico de Aragón, 1 March, 1998.)

"Nueva página de Internet de la Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo" (Periódico de Aragón, 1 March, 1998)

"UGT ahorra el equivalente a medio millón de botellas" ( Heraldo de Aragón, 15 March, 1998, p.13.)

"Cerca de un 60% de zaragozanos no conoce métodos de ahorro de agua" ( Diario del Altoaragón, 16 March, 1998, p.8.)

"60% de los zaragozanos no conoce métodos para ahorrar agua" ( Periódico de Aragón, 16 March, 1998, p. 10.)

Este documento se ha editado a partir de una versión inglesa.
Revisado por Ricardo García.

1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >
Ciudades para un Futuro más Sostenible
Búsqueda | Buenas Prácticas | Documentos | Boletín CF+S | Novedades | Convocatorias | Sobre la Biblioteca | Buzón/Mailbox
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Grupo de Investigación en Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Sostenibilidad
Departamento de Estructuras y Física de la EdificaciónDepartamento de Urbanística y Ordenación del Territorio