An analysis of the flood adaptation of the province of Cádiz (Spain)

Adaptating for the Future
6 min readOct 25, 2021

Article from March 2019

Cadiz coast (Spain)


The importance of adapting societies to the threats of climate change has been widely recognised by many international organisations and countries, such as Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD 2015) and the United Nations (UN 2019). In fact, reducing carbon emissions is no longer enough to half the effects of climate change ((UN 2019); (Shaw, et al. 2007, 2)) and, hence, to avoid its threats and uncertainties, adaptation is a necessary, winning and vital approach to be taken (Loftus 2011).

“Reducing carbon emissions is no longer enough to half the effects of climate change and, hence, to avoid its threats and uncertainties, adaptation is a necessary, winning and vital approach to be taken.

By not adapting to climate change, responsible for increasing the frequency of natural hazards (Acevedo & Novta 2017), governments expose their citizens to higher vulnerabilities (Street 2007), which, in fact, increases the risks of suffering its negative impacts (Wisner, et al. 2004), hindering sustainable development (UNFCCC 2005). In Spain, floods have been and are the natural hazards that more economic and life losses have caused ((PreventionWeb 2019); (BOE 2019)) and the Province of Cádiz, one of the southern provinces in Andalusia, is one of the most exposed ((EM-DAT 2019); (Consejería de Medio Ambiente. Dirección General de Planificación y Gestión del Dominio Público Hidráulico, 2007);(Red de Información Ambiental de Andalucía 2019)).

However, it is not only exposure what determines the losses that a place faces, but also its vulnerability level (Coppola 2011), which is influenced by its actual adaptation to these threats. Hence, in the absence of adaptation, these losses are expected to increase more in the future (UNEP 2014).

Although some research can be found about adaptation capacity of Spain, in both national and local levels, there is not a research paper that analyses the adaptation of the Province of Cádiz to floods. Hence, this paper aims to be the first in answering the following question:

Is the Province of Cádiz adapted to the threatening impacts of floods?

Empirical findings and conclusion

Following the guidelines from the handbook Adapting Urban Water Systems to Climate Change (2011), one can find the following:

Despite the existence of emergency plans, the cooperation between the different levels of governance, the protection of dams and wetlands and the economic diversification of the area, there are still many factors that make the Province not adapted to not only the floods, but also to the future impacts of climate change.

On the first hand, there is gender discrimination in the labour market, which makes women more dependent to their husbands, and long-term unemployment, which, all in all, exacerbates women´s vulnerability (International Labour Organization 2018) and of the area, since more resources have to be devoted to those unemployed. Furthermore, the high levels of debt from the municipalities force them to have other urgent priorities than adapting DRR and CCA measures and, hence, their level of commitment cannot be that high, due to limited economic resources (Johnson 2011, 14).

This is even more intensified with corruption (González 2018), which results in the deviation of economic resources (FAO 2007), resulting in even less available budget. It is not surprising, then, that civilians think that the governments are not doing enough in terms of climate change adaptation (Junta de Andalucía 2017, 21) which, in fact, shows a clear detachment between society and politicians. At the same time, this can increase population’s vulnerability against hazards, since, among others, specific development needs may be ignored (Johnson 2011, 21).

This requires of a political change from bad to good governance, as without trust from civilians to politicians, effective adaptation cannot be achieved (Wisner, et al. 2004). Another challenge that will increase more the vulnerability is the predictions found in population, where the old population is expected to increase an eighty-seven per cent more ((Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal 2018);(FAO 2007)). Finally, there is a risk that dams are in overcapacity in the future in the event of very intense precipitations, since some currently present levels of ninety-one per cent of capacity.

On the second hand, the impacts that floods have had in the last twenty years constitutes an acid test of vulnerability and capacity (Bankoff, et al. 2004). Being adapted to the threats of climate change implies anticipation of its adverse effects, taking appropriate action to prevent or minimize its damages (European Commission 2019), which, at the same time, requires more structural changes affecting root causes, like corruption, which generate patterns of vulnerability (Bankoff, et al. 2004). As observed by the data from EM-DAT and newspapers, the most recent floods disrupt society’s functionality and causes some deaths and big economic losses.

This demonstrates that the Province keeps being vulnerable and further action is required to achieve adaptation. All these findings allow to conclude that the Province is not adapted to the threatening impacts of floods.


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Adaptating for the Future

My name is Cristina Bernal Aparicio and I write to raise awareness and share knowledge on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.