I grew up in Madrid but my father’s family lives near Doñana so I’ve been visiting since I was small. I loved to watch birds, dragonflies, frogs – it’s where I took my first steps on the path of conservation. And with WWF, it became a huge part of my life – it’s like my baby.

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Fighting for living rivers

Although declared a National Park in 1969 and World Heritage Site in 1994, Doñana still faces threats from development, tourism and agriculture. Satisfying water demand in ‘Europe’s orchard’, especially for strawberry growing, impacts rivers and wetlands.

“Healthy, living rivers are our beating heart but water isn’t an infinite resource, and technology and engineering can’t fix a broken heart.”

Working with local farmers and supermarket chains, Eva’s team have helped reconcile competing demands, securing a land use plan that’s shaping a development model less dependent on water and creating new business opportunities in innovative irrigation.

Our biggest challenge is changing mindsets. We’ve shown what can be done differently but success is fragile.

Beyond Doñana, the EU Water Framework Directive offers a good approach for improving water management, including tackling over half a million illegal wells in Spain, but implementation is patchy and the Directive is under review in Brussels.

“Water is a public good but we must value it properly. We need to put a price on water that reflects its scarcity, and users should pay according their usage and impact – something unthinkable 15 years ago but we’re helping to change the public discourse.”

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Listening deeply

Eva now has a new pan-European role with WWF, as the Coordinator of the Living European Rivers Initiative – a challenge for which she feels well-prepared having completed MAVA’s Leaders for Nature Academy as a senior participant and mentor.

“A huge lesson in emotional intelligence, it made me look in the mirror and ask myself lots of questions. With all the challenges we face, we need to reinvent conservation – but to do that, we need to reinvent ourselves and listen deeply to others, especially outside conservation.”

Find out more about how Eva and WWF are helping deliver MAVA’s action plan on Ensuring Integrated Management of River Basins.

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