Mequinenza Dam and its impact on the Rio Ebro

A panorama of the Mequinenza reservoir and dam in Aragon

The dam at Mequinenza was hailed as a great success when it was built 1966 because it would provide electricity to several communities within a wide area. The building of the dam also created a huge lake (7,450 hectares) and is called the Sea of Aragon. It’s a major attraction for fishermen.

While the dam may have been built with good intentions the effect it’s had on the Rio Ebro has been devastating with reduced water levels, over-fishing and heavy pollution all playing their part in the demise of a once beautiful region.

From the Mequinenza side of the dam all looks fairly healthy and indeed the water is clear and clean, azure blue with patches of bright green algae creating islands for insects on the surface. The other side of the dam is a vastly different prospect and it’s almost as if the building of the dam wall was done to hide the sadness that lies behind it.

This side of the Mequinenza Dam all seemed well.


Water levels have dropped as much as 15 metres which has made it easier for fishermen to net the large, incredible catfish that dwell in the river. It also reduces the dilution of pollution (including nuclear waste and Chromium 6) which makes for an incredibly concentrated toxic soup.

Tourism is also to blame for the state of the river with kayakers, foreign fishermen and boat trips all adding to the mess.

Aragon’s local government have proposed to clean up the winding stretch of river between Caspe and Mequinenza but all we saw were signs with words to that effect and absolutely no evidence of any regeneration work. Add to that the carcasses of dead fish, oyster shells and discarded fishing equipment and you have a picture which is out of sync with its headlines.

Having seen the state of the river for myself and envisioning the potential it could once again have, my hope is that the clean up commences and is swift, for the sake of the myriad of wildlife which should be able to thrive unharmed along the banks and within the Rio Ebro.

You can book yourself a hotel in the Mequinenza area (Fraga 15km away) by clicking here and see the state of the Rio Ebro for yourself.

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You can also read our other article about pollution in the Rio Ebro and view our gallery of pollution.

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