Spain is currently facing its most serious water crisis in at least a century. This extremely severe drought has prompted Catalan authorities to take drastic measures, including imposing a state of emergency. The decision, which follows months of warnings and appeals to conserve water, underscores the seriousness of the situation facing the region. The drought, which has lasted nearly 40 months and is considered the worst since the introduction of monitoring, has had serious consequences.
The water reservoirs on the Ter and Llobregat rivers, which supply water to some 6 million residents in northern Catalonia, are currently less than 16 percent full, a record low. The declaration of a state of emergency means the imposition of severe restrictions on water consumption in all sectors, including residents, agriculture, industry or recreational activities.
Introduction of the state of emergency – necessary restrictions
Spanish authorities, in response to the growing water crisis, have taken strong measures to reduce residents’ water consumption. Restrictions announced on February 1, 2024. include a reduction in the allowed water consumption per person per day to 200 liters, a reduction of 10 liters from the previously set limit. The agricultural sector is facing drastic reductions – by as much as 80 percent, including a reduction in the amount of water used for irrigation. In addition, the possibility of using water for animal husbandry has been reduced by half. There was a 25% reduction in industrial and urban applications. Moreover, the use of water for recreational purposes has been reduced to the bare minimum.
Washing cars, watering gardens and filling swimming pools were banned. Water parks and ice rinks have been closed, and public and private swimming pools have been closed, with the exception of those located in sports centers, and they too must adapt to the new conditions by using seawater. The city’s parks have stopped being watered, however, to prevent the death of 35,000. trees in the city, it is planned to use ground water. Showers have been turned off at the beaches. The fountains have also stopped working. These restrictions are expected to remain in place for at least another 15 months, and violations of the restrictions will result in hefty fines.
Consequences of prolonged drought
The ongoing drought in Spain is having far-reaching and varied effects on many industries, putting pressure on the country’s water resources and the national budget. Tourism and agriculture in particular bear the direct consequences of this environmental crisis. Spaniards, but not only Spaniards, are aware of the difficult position they are in. It is worth mentioning the initiative of ship owners affiliated with the International Association of Cruise Lines, which account for 90 percent of the vessels calling at the port of Barcelona. They made the decision not to charge water in this port.
While residents of Barcelona are not yet seriously affected by the drought, the situation is much more difficult for thousands of people living in small communities that rely on groundwater intakes. Gualba, a village of about 1,500. residents, an hour’s drive north of Barcelona, has been facing a drinking water shortage since December. The drop in level in the local reservoir is so great that the water has become undrinkable.
The drought problem is being felt just as acutely in other areas of Catalonia, where local communities are struggling to access water. In 2023. Insurance compensation paid to farmers in the region has reached 110 million euros, demonstrating the scale of losses caused by the drought. However, the problem is not limited to northeastern Spain. In Andalusia, in the south of the country, a period of extreme weather – hot and dry – has significantly affected olive production, cutting yields in half and doubling the price of oil on the market. Such a situation has not only local but global implications, as Spain is one of the world’s leading olive oil producers. Grape production is also threatened, affecting the Spanish industry.
Water delivery by ship may become necessary
Catalonia has so far managed to avoid stricter restrictions by using desalination and water reclamation systems, which at this point supply 55 percent of the country’s water supply. of total consumption in the region. However, both Catalonia and Andalusia are preparing for the possible import of water by ship in the coming, probably next hot summer. The solution would be launched starting in June and would allow at least one ship to transport water per day. Up to 20,000m3 of water would be transported. Will this happen? Time will tell.