ICLEI European Secretariat

ICLEI European Secretariat



Member in the Spotlight


Zaragoza is the capital of the autonomous community of Aragon in Spain, and is one of the largest cities in the country with more than 700,000 inhabitants. The city has played an important role throughout Spanish history, from the Roman period, in Moorish Spain and as the centre of the Kingdom of Aragon. Today Zaragoza is known as a high-profile manufacturing centre, as well as for the cultural remains endowed by its long history. Several historical buildings in the city, built in the Mudéjar style, have been included in a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001.

The city’s progress towards sustainability has been truly startling. CO2 emissions produced by electricity consumption have fallen by 27 percent, and those attributable to urban mobility have fallen by 16.25 percent. Zaragoza is implementing its Sustainable Mobility Plan which is producing great results – almost 10 percent of the population cycles every day using the network of cycle lanes and routes, and use of the tram and suburban train lines has reduced traffic in the city centre by more than 28 percent.

Zaragoza has applied for the 2016 round of the European Green Capital Award. To read more about the city’s work across a range of sustainability themes in both English and Spanish, click here.

Sustainability focus: Water conservation and flood prevention

Zaragoza’s municipal water system faced numerous difficulties in 2000. Consumption was high compared to national averages, and although the city’s network of pipes and treatment facilities was sufficient to meet need, it was old-fashioned and required frequent repairs. Most worryingly, there were issues in terms of water quality, with high levels of dissolved solids and trihalomethanes, many of which are carcinogens.

Over the last decade, Zaragoza’s water infrastructure has been improved and extended, now measuring over 1000 kilometres. Even as the network has been extended, ruptures and leaks in the city’s delivery system have also decreased dramatically, with a corresponding reduction in the amount of water lost. The city is also raising awareness about water consumption among the population through a series of campaigns targeted at everyone from schoolchildren to local companies. As a result, there is one water meter installed for every two of the city’s inhabitants. There are also financial incentives in the form of discounts on water bills for families who successfully reduce their water consumption.

Thanks to the city’s plan to improve water quality and management as well as an intense public awareness campaign, Zaragoza has had some impressive reductions in water consumption and waste. Although the population of the city has increased over the last decade, daily water consumption decreased to less than 100 litres per capita, representing a reduction of 26 percent from 2000 levels. The city hopes to cut this even further, to just 90 litres per capita per day by 2020. Total annual water consumption now stands at 25.5 million m3, a decrease of 5.4 million m3 since 2000. Zaragoza’s per capita water consumption is now below both the Spanish and the EU averages. Water quality has also improved greatly, with significant reductions in dissolved solids, bacteria, and pollutants.

As Zaragoza lies at the confluence of several rivers and canals, flooding can present a major issue. The lowest lying areas of the city along the banks of the Ebro have been protected, and in cases of high rainfall temporary storage tanks hold excess water that is later released into the city’s sewer system. Zaragoza has also become a centre of research and innovation in new technologies for water management with the ZINNAE (Zaragoza Innovates in Water and Energy) urban cluster, an association of institutions and companies working for better efficiency across the whole water cycle.

Fast facts

  • Zaragoza has protected areas for 193 species of flora and fauna within the city’s limits. 46 percent of the city’s area is covered by forest and natural vegetation.
  • Zaragoza has fulfilled all EU standards for air quality since 2010, and is close to meeting WHO standards on particulate matter (PM).
  • Over 70 percent of energy consumption comes from renewable sources.


"Zaragoza has become a world referent in water, not only for hosting the only international expo specifically focusing on this field and for being the headquarters of the UN agency for the decade of water, but also for its policies implemented in the last decade related to water efficiency, saving, cleaning and public awareness. This last aspect has to be stressed after the commitment reached by citizens, institutions and private companies. The constant and strict attention to the integral water cycle in Zaragoza is only the spearhead of a model of environmental sustainability that is being extended to realms such as mobility, city planning, management of waste and the protection of natural areas and we are orienting towards new technologies and the benefits that they can contribute in this exciting race for reaching full urban sustainability. The concept of smart city is an idea that we consider to be essential; we are already integrating this in all our policies and actions, and it will define the Zaragoza of the 21st century."

Juan Alberto Belloch,
Mayor, Zaragoza

ICLEI and Zaragoza:
The City of Zaragoza has been an ICLEI member since August 2005. The city is a signatory to the Aalborg Charter and the Aalborg Commitments. Zaragoza hosted ICLEI Europe's membership convention in 2008.

Websites: www.zaragoza.es