The Turia River is a European channel located northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, specifically in Spanish territory. It has a length of 230 km from its source in the Universal Mountains to its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea, covering an approximate area of 6,394 km 2 .
The Turia basin is of great importance for the region and the country, since its waters have been the fundamental pillar for the agricultural development of the valley of the autochthonous communities of Aragon and Valencia.
Due to the great diversity of flora and fauna that inhabit the upper Turia basin, its territory is being considered to be declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Furthermore, in the lower basin, as it passes through the city of Valencia, the water from the Turia feeds an important corridor of vegetation that constitutes a green lung for the growing metropolis.
Before the expansion of the Roman Empire across the Iberian Peninsula, Celtic civilizations occupied the foothills of the mountains in the upper Turia basin, leaving archaeological remains at these sites that evidence their presence.
Around 138 a. C. the city of Valencia was founded by the Romans on a terraced area on the banks of the Turia river. This strategic location offered them three fundamental advantages:
First, access to fresh water essential for the development of agriculture and the maintenance of the city. Second, its proximity to the sea facilitated the transfer of goods, civilians, and troops to and from other locations under its control. Third, the area was in an elevated position compared to its surroundings, which provided an advantage for the defense of the city.
20th century onwards
In 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, the territory of the upper Turia basin was the scene where republicans and nationalists clashed in the struggle for Aragon. Today there are trenches, tunnels and defense buildings where the Republicans sheltered in their attempt to defend the territory.
An important part of the history of this channel has been written by the uncontrollable nature of its floods. The oldest record of these events dates from the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. C. during the Roman occupation.
Since ancient times, the regents of Valencia have undertaken engineering work to control floods with the construction of walls, gates and channels to regulate the flow of the river.
However, these actions were insufficient and in 1957 the last great flood of the Turia occurred, which claimed the lives of 81 people and produced losses estimated at 10,000 million pesetas of the time (approx. 60 million euros).
The flood or flood of 1957 forced the government of Francisco Franco to plan and implement new measures to control floods. The study of the necessary works for the prevention of new floods in urban areas resulted in the so-called South Plan of 1961.
According to this plan, the diversion of the river through a 175-meter wide channel was proposed and executed, to a position 3 kilometers south of its natural channel. The works were carried out between 1964 and 1973.
The Turia is classified as a Mediterranean river with Levantine characteristics. When it was born in the Iberian system, at an altitude of 1,680 meters above sea level, on its descent towards its mouth in the Mediterranean it crosses mountains and mountain ranges that accelerate its waters.
The bed of the Turia presents great seasonal variations due to its rain-snow feeding. It presents periods of high water between winter and spring, reaching its maximum levels around March. In summer, the channel is at its lowest point, almost disappearing in August with lows of up to 0.31 m 3 / s.
The available flow varies considerably in the different sections of the riverbed, this is due to the amount of precipitation present in each sector. Thus, in the upper basin there is an average of 1,000 mm of rain, while in the lower basin it barely exceeds 500 mm.
The floods that affect the Turia basin occur suddenly and exceed 35 times the average in a matter of hours. Floods mainly affect the lower basin of the river, whose channel becomes the natural channel that collects runoff from the mountains and the surrounding valley on its way to lower ground.
The upper part of the Turia presents a karst relief, which favors the underground water deposit. In addition, the Benagéber and Loriguilla reservoirs have been installed with a capacity of 221 and 73 Hm 3 respectively, which help to control these events.
Birth, route and mouth
The Turia River is born in the Muela de San Juan, a flat-topped mountain that is part of the Universal Mountains. The head of the river is in the municipality of Guadalaviar, at about 1,680 meters above sea level. It travels approximately 300 km to its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea.
In the upper basin, the Turia receives the name of the municipality where it was born: Guadalaviar. In this section it runs through calcareous canyons dug by the water between soft rocks, originating from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Following its upper part, it flows west-east to the city of Teruel, located in the autonomous community of Aragón. From this point, head south. It goes from its source in the Muela de San Juan to the Loriguilla reservoir, in the homonymous municipality of the province of Valencia.
From its encounter with the Alfambra river, the Turia properly receives its name. The lower basin extends between Loriguilla and its mouth in the Mediterranean, through its channel that was diverted by the Plan Sur of 1961 in Valencia.
The Turia river runs through the Guadalaviar, Villar del Cobo, Albarracín, Villel municipalities of the autonomous community of Aragón and the Torre Baja, Ademuz, Tuejar, Chelva, Loriguilla, Chulilla, Gestalgar, Bugarra, Pedralba, Ribarroja de Turia and Valencia municipalities, the province of Valencia.
The pollution that affects the Turia river basin is the product of agricultural and industrial activity and the growth of populated centers. It is estimated that half of the territory of the basin is dedicated to agricultural production, concentrated mainly in the lower part. The intensity of the exploitation of this item leads to the river wastewater containing fungicides, herbicides and insecticides.
The city of Valencia is the third largest urban center in Spain, being surpassed only by Madrid and Barcelona. For the Turia, this translates into an increase in the consumptive use of its waters, loss of territory due to the development of urban planning and an increase in the concentration of ozone.
The ozone present at ground level is classified as a pollutant, the Valencia Valley crucible allows the formation of this harmful gas with the combination of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons.
In its passage through populated centers, the Turia is affected by the low environmental sensitivity of citizens, who throw solid waste into its waters and its banks. However, this contamination occurs in a timely manner and is satisfactorily controlled by the responsible action of the municipal governments.
Agriculture is the main economic activity that takes place around the waters of the Turia. Two-thirds of Spain’s oranges are produced in the lower river basin, making the region the main citrus producer in Europe.
By 2016, 152,000 hectares were dedicated to the production of citrus, 43,000 hectares to the production of rice, 67,000 hectares to the planting of vineyards and 94,000 hectares to the cultivation of olive trees.
Throughout the Turia basin, two types of cultivation are developed: rainfed and irrigated. The first type of cultivation depends exclusively on rainwater for its subsistence, this technique is used mainly in the cultivation of olive trees, since the dry fruit has better performance in the production of oil. Irrigated crops in the area depend mainly on water from the Turia river channels.
Main cities that travels
From its source in the Muela de San Juan to its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea, the Turia runs through the territory of two Spanish autonomous communities: Aragon and the Valencian Community.
On its way to the sea, its waters touch small cities that by 2018 did not have more than 1,000 inhabitants. Among the most important cities that it runs through are Teruel and Valencia.
Teruel is the capital of the homonymous province and stands out for being the least populated in Spain. Located at the confluence of the Guadalaviar and Alfambra rivers, it is the most important city that touches the Turia river in the territory of the autonomous community of Aragon.
This city, in 2017, had 35,484 inhabitants. In 1986 it was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to the historical and artistic value of its Mudejar architecture.
Valencia is one of the most important cities in Spain. It serves as a double capital, on the one hand it is the capital of the homonymous province and on the other, it is the capital of the Valencian Autonomous Community. By 2018 it had 1,559,908 inhabitants distributed between the city and its metropolitan area.
Since its foundation it has been considered the capital of the Turia, since the city has developed around the riverbed. Founded by the Romans around 138 BC. C. in 711 it was occupied by the Muslims, until its recovery in 1238 under the mandate of Jaime I of Aragon. The richness of its history, its culture and its architecture have earned it recognition from Unesco, as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Due to its location in the lower basin of the Turia, Valencia has historically suffered the impact of floods. There is archaeological evidence showing that Romans and Muslims suffered the effect of the overflowing waters of the river.
Throughout its route, the Turia receives contributions from the following rivers: Griegos, Noguera, Alfambra, Riodeva, Ebron, Bohílgues, Arcos and Sot de Chera; and the following streams: Rollo, Barranco Sancha, Los Recuencos, Bronchales, Garbe, La Cañada, Juncal, Cambretas, Asturias and La Granolera.
Furthermore, during storms and thaw it receives the contribution of runoff from innumerable ravines and boulevards.
Along the Turia river basin you will find a great diversity of species native to Europe and North Africa. The variation in height and temperature limits the presence of certain species to specific areas, these factors mainly determine those that proliferate at the head of the river and its upper area.
They are typical species of the basin black poplar, common reed, heather, silky albaida, white poplar, hawthorn, Aleppo pine, kermes oak, light garrigue, zarramilla, mastic, rosemary, oleander, cascoja, bramble, rockrose, palm, carob, rush, poplar, bulrush, stone pine, banana, Mediterranean maquia, aladierno, thyme, gorse, white willow, pitter, wild oats, thistle, esparto, horsetail and radish.
The Turia River basin is home to a great diversity of species, including 18 types of mammals, 107 of birds, 13 of reptiles, 5 of amphibians and 10 of fish. Some of these are classified as threatened or endangered species.
Among the wild animals present in the area are the common swallow, mandril, eel, badger, red carp, Iberian lizard, southern smooth snake, common shrew, eagle owl, face dormouse, runner toad, wildcat, Moorish hedgehog, shoveler, hare, owlet, viperine snake, hawk, tusk, moorhen, bastard snake and weasel.
Also goby, robin, wild boar, cinderella lizard, blackbird, rainbow trout, common hawk, ocellated lizard, woodpecker, water rat, turtledove, spotted toad, verdigris, carp, midwife toad, kingfisher, red squirrel, short-toed eagle, cuckoo, gecko, red partridge, genet, purple heron, field mouse, nightingale, common frog, mallard, red fox, wild wildcat and Mediterranean barbel.
The city that lost its river, report from the newspaper El País, published on December 15, 2006. Taken from elpais.com.
Sánchez Fabre, M, “The Guadalaviar river: its hydrological behavior”, Rehalda Magazine, Number 7 (2008). Taken from rehalda.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/rehalda_7.pdf
Jonatan Morell Cuevas, “The factor of precipitation in the formation of avenues in the upper Turia basin”, Revista Geographicalia, 2001, Number 40. Taken from dialnet.uniroja.es.
Analysis, distribution, transport and toxicity of emerging pollutants in the Turia Basin, thesis of the University of Valencia, May 2017. Taken from roderic.uv.es.
Guara, “Ecological data of the banks of the lower course of the Turia river”, Revista de Ecología nº 4, (1990). Taken from miteco.gob.es.