Case Studies - Waterboards - Spain

Case study: Sindicato de Riegos del Río Queiles en Navarra


Type of institution for collective action

Waterboard (Irrigation Union)

Name/description institution  

Sindicato de Riegos del Río Queiles en Navarra





Name of city or specified area 

River Queiles Valley

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)

Southern part of Navarre (Spain), right bank of the river Ebro. 

Surface area and boundaries

The Irrigation Union is directly connected to seven villages in Navarre, as follows from Article 1 of the Regulations of 1851: "The river Queiles is distributed for irrigation days and hours between the following villages of Navarre, namely Tudela, Cascante, Monteagudo, Tulebras, Barillas, Urzante and Murchante, which have acquired their rights for privileges, judgments and covenants". However, next to these seven villages that formed the Union, other villages in Navarre (Ablitas) and Zaragoza (Malón, Novallas, Tarazona) were included in the irrigation shifts.


The Union did not include the irrigation by the canal Mendienique, previously being part of the Albalá. The communities included in the Union are those irrigated through the ditch Naón and other channels of less importance.

Foundation/start of institution, date or year

Although the "Irrigation Union" was legally founded in 1850, previously a more informal community of irrigators (or a community of irrigation communities, to put it more accurately) already existed, generally known as the Albalá de Tudela.

Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?

The official constitution of the Queiles Irrigation Union took place at a ceremony in Tudela on April 6, 1851, in the presence of the municipal and provincial authorities. The continuity with the past is explicitely stated in Article 2 of the Regulation of 1851: “These villages will continue to receive water in their respective time periods under the rights of each, in the usual way as has been performed until now".

Foundation act present?

The Irrigation Union of the River Queiles in Navarre published its Regulation (Reglamento) in 1851 in the Official Gazette of the Province of Navarra. This booklet was reprinted with modifications in 1867 (following the adoption in Spain of the first Water Law in 1866), and in 1910.

Description of Act of foundation

The Regulation of the Irrigation Union of the River Queiles in Navarre describes the composition of this body and its functions:

  • Chapter 1 describes the nature of irrigation and the obligations and rights of the farmers, referring explicitly to its continuity with the past.
  • Chapter 2 concerns the creation and organization of the Union, its management board to be composed of eight individuals: one representative per village, elected out of those inhabitants who were  both literate and owners or tenants of irrigated land covering at least 2.69 hectares.
  • Chapter 3 specifies the powers of the Union, among which “the improvement and maintenance of ditches, use and exploitation of irrigation water, respecting the existing rights of every town”.
  • Chapter 4 specifies the authority of the Director of the Union.
  • Chapter 5 provides for the creation of a "water court", composed of the director and two representatives (síndicos) selected by lottery, being committed to resolve questions of fact on water use.
  • Finally, chapter 6 refers to penalties and damages under the penal code and ordinances.

Year of termination of institution

Still existing.

Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?


Act regarding termination present?


Description Act of termination


Reason for termination?


Recognized by local government?


Concise history of institution

For situation before 1850, please see the case study on the Albalá de Tudela.


The political and administrative changes of the nineteenth century demanded adaptations of the complex institutional system of the river Queiles. The creation of the Irrigation Union in 1850 responded to the need to adapt the system of monitoring and sanctioning the theft of water to the new institutional framework, resulting from the enactment of the Penal Code in 1848. In March 1849, a royal order of the Ministry of Commerce, Education, and Public Works explicitely stated the powers and criminal jurisdiction of the water officials (alamines) and of the authorities of Tudela to be equal to the famous Tribunal de las Aguas de Valencia. This established a waters court with greater powers than ever before.


The creation of the Irrigation Union of the river Queiles in Navarra was ahead of the Water Act 1866, which required irrigation communities to be subject to ordinances in case the collective exploitation of irrigation exceeded 200 hectares.


The successive Water Act of 1879 also envisaged the formation of central trade unions by several communities in a river basin. This meant adopting a more uniform and functional organization, and a finer control of the irrigation system. Administrative rationalization and systematization was completed at the Ebro basin in 1926, the year of the creation of the Hydrographic Confederation of the Ebro River (Confederación Hidrográfica del Ebro), i.e. a public corporation, in which unions were representing the interests of the irrigators.

Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

  • 1851:  The Irrigation Union of the River Queiles in Navarre was legally constituted and published its ordinances.
  • 1866: The first Spanish Water Act was published. The Irrigation Union of the River Queiles in Navarre adapted its regulations to the Act and published its new ordinances in 1867.
  • 1910: The Irrigation Union of the River Queiles in Navarre published its ordinances again.
  • 1935: The construction of the Canal de Lodosa (work started in 1915) addressed the traditional shortage of irrigation water on the right bank of the river Ebro, and in particular Queiles Valley. Running 127 kilometers, the canal flows from the Ebro river with a flow of 22 liters per second.
  • 1940:  The Commonwealth of Aguas del Moncayo was founded in order to guarantee the administration  of drinking water to the populations  of the participating communities: Tudela, Corella, Tulebras, Monteagudo, Barillas, Murchante, Ablitas, Ribaforada, and Alfaro. In part, its activities match those of the irrigators' union.
  • 1998:  The Spanish Supreme Court condemned the city of Tarazona to continue bringing down water from the Queiles river in March and November for 8 days (alhema)  to the benefit of Tudela.


Numbers of members (specified)

The Irrigation Union Board had 8 members (síndicos) elected by the land owners. The number of irrigators has not been registered. 

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

All the owners and tenants with land irrigated by the river Queiles.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)

No specific conditions for obtaining membership. To have the right vote in union elections required the ownership of at least 0.09 hectares (Regulations of 1867). To access the position of board member (síndico) one required to exploit at least 2.69 hectares of irrigated land, either in possession or in lease.

Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?


Advantages of membership?


Obligations of members? 


Literature on case study

  • Floristán Samanes, Alfredo. 1951.  La Ribera Tudelana de Navarra, Zaragoza, Institución Príncipe de Viana (especially pp.115-20, 132-43).
  • Junta Consultiva Agronómica. 1904. El regadío en España. Resumen hecho por la J.C.A. de las Memorias sobre riegos remitidas por los Ingenieros del Servicio Agronómico Provincial. Madrid : los hijos de M.G.Hernández.
  • Junta Consultiva Agronómica. 1916. Medios que se utilizan para suministrar el riego a las tierras. Distribución de los cultivos en la zona regable. Madrid : Imprenta de los hijos de M.G.Hernández.
  • Lana Berasain, José Miguel. 1999.'Los regadíos navarros entre el Antiguo Régimen y la Guerra Civil. Una aproximación a sus características técnicas e institucionales', in: Gerónimo de Uztariz (14-15) pp.201-20.
  • Llauradó, Andrés. 1878. Tratado de aguas y riegos. Madrid : Imprenta de M.Tello.
  • Madoz, Pascual. 1986 (1st ed. 1845-50). Diccionario geográfico-estadístico-histórico de España y sus posesiones de Ultramar: Navarra.Valladolid : Ambito/Gobierno de Navarra.
  • Pinilla, Vicente (ed.). 2008. Gestión y usos del agua en la cuenca del Ebro en el siglo XX. Zaragoza : Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza.
  • Yanguas y Miranda, José. 1828. Diccionario histórico político de Tudela. Zaragoza.

Sources on case study

  • Archivo Municipal de Tudela
    • Ordenanzas de Urzante. Tudela, 1871.
    • Ordenanzas de Urzante. Tudela, 1887, 1888.
    • Ordenanzas municipales de la ciudad de Cascante, Año 1847. Tudela, 1874.
    • Ordenanzas para el buen gobierno de los campos de Tulebras. Tudela, 1858.
    • Ordenanzas para el buen orden administrativo de las Huertas Mayores y Campos Unidos de Tudela. Zaragoza, 1878.
    • Ordenanzas, reglamento del Sindicato y reglamento del Jurado para el riego del campo de Valpertuna en Tudela, provincia de Navarra. Tudela, 1873.
    • Reglamento del Sindicato de Riegos del Queiles en Navarra. Tudela, 1851.
    • Reglamento del Sindicato de Riegos del Queiles en Navarra. Tudela, 1867.
    • Reglamento del Sindicato de Riegos del Queiles en Navarra. Tudela, 1910.

Links to further information on case study:


Case study composed by

José-Miguel Lana Berasain, Public University of Navarra




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