Metropolitan Area of Barcelona

The Barcelona metropolis is an extensive urban reality of pluri-municipal character, home to 3.2 million inhabitants and where 305,000 companies carry out their economic activities. The geographical conditions of this area are varied, its history dates far back in time, and its urban development has accelerated over the last hundred years. The combination of these factors has shaped a varied metropolitan city that contains many identities and sensitivities of complex local origin because it must respond to an intensive concentration of people, uses and activities.

The Barcelona Metropolitan Area is the largest demographic and economic concentration in Catalonia. Its 636 km2 only represent 2% of the surface area of Catalonia, whereas its 3.2 million residents are equivalent to 43% of the population of Catalonia. It is therefore a densely populated area (5,000 inhabitants per km2, 20 times higher than the Catalan average of 234) and also very intensely urbanized: 37% of its surface area is occupied by different urban uses, whereas in Catalonia as a whole this ratio hardly reaches 4%. The economical influence of the metropolitan area is even greater: it houses 51% of all the jobs in Catalonia. It concentrates, especially, the most dynamic economic sectors: 56% of all services and between 60 and 70% of services with highest added value and high technological content such as research, information technologies and telecommunications. The unemployment rate (17%) is below the Catalan level (19%). From the social point of view, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area has the same proportion of immigration as Catalonia (16%), a higher ageing population (127 elderly people per 100 youths, compared to 108 for Catalonia), and a 5% above average income level.

On 27 July 2010, the Catalan Parliament passed the Law of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area(AMB). This law provided a new institutional organisation for the urban areas that form Barcelona, and another 35 municipalities in its immediate surrounding area. The new organisation, which will be constituted after of the municipal elections on 22 May, 2011, replaces the three metropolitan organisations in force to date and merges them into a single body: the Union of Municipalities of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Metropolitan Transport Board.

Over the last few years, the need for institutional unification has enjoyed greater and greater consensus among metropolitan municipalities and also among all Catalan political forces, as evidenced by unanimous approval of the new law.

The new legal framework consolidates and simplifies metropolitan administration and reinforces it with new powers, mainly in the area of territorial planning and urban development. One highlight is the formulation of the Metropolitan Urban Master Plan and the Plan for Metropolitan Urban Planning to replace the General Metropolitan Plan in force since 1976.

AMB will also have powers in regard to economic promotion, social cohesion and infrastructures, with such relevant incorporations as management of ring roads.

All these areas of action are essential to improve the urban quality and living conditions of citizens in the complex framework of territorial competitiveness and globalisation, especially in today’s context of economic crisis. The metropolitan area and all its municipalities will have the ideal instrument to continue advancing in the construction of a more dynamic, better-planned, more equitable territory with greater economic weight in Catalonia, Spain and the world.


The Law of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area describes its powers as described below. In addition, it will be able to assume those that other administrative bodies, especially municipalities, agree to delegate or transfer. On the other hand, the regional councils included in the AMB will hold their corresponding powers, except those that the metropolitan Law expressly assigns to the AMB.

Territorial planning

•          Participation in the formulation and processing of the General Territorial Plan of Catalonia.

•          Participation in drafting and follow-up of partial territorial plans that affect its area and sectorial territorial plans that affect its powers.

•          Formulation of plans, charters and programmes for landscape protection, management and planning.

Urban development and housing

•          Integrated urban planning for the metropolitan area through the Metropolitan Urban Master Plan (PDUM) and the Metropolitan Urban Plan (POUM). The initiative for the formulation and the initial and provisional approval of both plans and their later modifications will correspond to the AMB. Final approval of the PDUM will correspond to the Generalitat of Catalonia, and that of the POUM, to the Metropolitan Urban Development Commission.

•          Participation in the Urban Development Commission of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area.

•          Formulation and initial and provisional approval of pluri-municipal urban action programmes.

•          Formulation and approval of planning figures derived from metropolitan interest or affecting several municipalities.

•          Urban Management of the PDUM and the POUM as a competent and acting Administration.

•          Protection of urban legality by delegation of municipalities or replacement of municipal powers. Exercise sanctioning powers whenever necessary.

•          Cooperation and technical/legal and economic advice to municipalities in regard to planning, action programmes, projects and works, and urban discipline.

•          Exercise powers in housing as recognised by law and those delegated by agreement or by consortium.

Transport and mobility

•          Planning and management of bus networks and other means of collective urban public transport of passengers on the surface, except the trams.

•          Provide underground train services and underground public transport of passengers.

•          Planning of the taxi service.

•          Approval of the Metropolitan Urban Mobility Plan. Definition of the basic metropolitan road network. Participation in traffic management on this network, in conjunction with the Generalitat.

•          Planning and management of the passenger transport for cultural and tourist purposes, by delegation of City Councils.

•          Promotion of sustainable transport.

•          Management of the Barcelona ring roads.

Water cycle

•          Household drinking water supply and distribution system and regulation of the corresponding prices.

•          Water supply purification and treatment of wastewater and regeneration of these water sources for other uses.

•          Coordination of municipal water treatment systems, in particular the integrated planning and management of the evacuation of rain and waste water and the sewage network.


•          Treatment of municipal and building waste, as well as its recovery (recuperation and recycling of paper, metal, plastic and other materials; obtention of energy and compost…) and disposal (controlled dumping of non-recyclable waste).

•          Coordination of municipal waste collection systems.

•          Picking and selection of containers.

•          Waste recycling facility, in collaboration with municipalities.

The environment

•          Coordination and formulation of a Metropolitan Action Plan for environmental protection, health and biodiversity, and measures to fight against climate change and the formulation of a metropolitan Agenda 21.

•          Participation in creation of acoustic capacity and strategic noise maps.

•          Issue of environmental reports.

•          Collaboration with municipalities in environmental planning policies.

•          Promotion and management of renewable energy facilities.

Infrastructures of metropolitan interest

•          Implementation and management of infrastructures associated with mobility, parks, beaches, natural areas, facilities, provisions, environmental and supply facilities and technical services.

Economic and social development

•          Promotion of economic activity, employment and the creation of companies in the areas of industry, trade, services and tourist resources.

•          Promotion of a Metropolitan Strategic Plan for modernisation, research and innovation.

Social and territorial cohesion

•          Promotion of pluri-municipal policies to encourage social cohesion and territorial balance.

•   Participation in the Safety Commission of the corresponding territorial area.

More information:

Elena Argelich

Waterloss Project Manager

Tel: 0034-935069548


Project Description

The project will develop a methodology for control of non-revenue water in water supply systems, by implementation of the following:
- water balance in water systems using GIS-based maps;
-appropriate performance indicators;
- a decision support tool and a prioritized list of measures for controlling water losses, adapted to regional conditions.


Fact sheet

D.E.Y.A.K. radio spot

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