(Barcelona) Barcelona and its outskirts were placed on Thursday in a state of “drought emergency” and will face new water restrictions due to the historic drought affecting this region of Spain, where water reserves have reached a critical level.
This decision will result in new water consumption limits for nearly six million inhabitants, with strong restrictions in particular for industry and agriculture.
“Catalonia is suffering from its worst drought in a century,” explained the president of the Catalan regional government, Pere Aragonès, at a press conference, recalling that the lack of precipitation had lasted for more than three years.
Catalan authorities had been preparing public opinion for weeks by announcing that a state of emergency would be declared if the level of reservoirs, storing rainwater for use during drier months, fell below 16%. .
However, this level has been reached in recent days, the persistence of dry weather having aggravated the already extreme drought of the soil on the Catalan coast, both in France and in Spain.
202 municipalities affected
Entry into the first phase of the state of “emergency”, which includes three, will result in significant restrictions for agriculture, which will have to reduce its water consumption by 80% (compared to 40% so far), and for industry, which will have to restrict it by 25% (instead of 15%).
The maximum average consumption ceiling for residents of the 202 municipalities affected by the restrictions has been lowered slightly and will be further reduced if the situation worsens.
Apart from a few municipalities where tap pressure will decrease, this measure will not currently result in tap water cuts for residents. But sanctions are planned for localities that do not respect this maximum threshold.
This emergency plan also prohibits the filling of swimming pools, even for simple refilling, except in public sports facilities which save water at other levels. An important measure for this very touristy region with a large number of hotels.
Watering green spaces is also now prohibited, except with non-potable water in public gardens and when the survival of trees is at stake. Same thing for washing cars.
If the level of reserves continues to fall, the authorities will put in place even more severe restrictions, such as closing showers in sports halls or completely banning watering in public gardens.
In recent weeks, regional authorities have not ruled out supplying Barcelona with water using tankers.
On the front lines of climate change
Periods without rain are not atypical in this Mediterranean region, which had already experienced a year and a half of drought in 2008. But the current level of drought is unprecedented since records began in 1916.
The lack of precipitation “has lasted for a very long time. If it continues for another year, the situation will be dramatic,” assures Xavier Sánchez Vila, director of the civil and environmental engineering department at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC).
The situation is similar in Andalusia (south), another region of Spain hit hard by drought and which plans to introduce restrictions on water consumption if the rain does not come, notably in Seville and Malaga.
Given the situation, “we need 30 days of rain” in a row, recently declared the president of this region, Juan Manuel Moreno, who also did not rule out a supply of drinking water by boat.
Faced with the effects of the drought, which pushed farmers to demonstrate on Thursday in Seville, Mr. Moreno asked the European Union this week to activate its solidarity fund, during a trip to Brussels.
A European country on the front line of global warming, Spain has seen an increase in extreme weather phenomena for several years, particularly heat waves, the frequency of which has tripled in ten years.
Temperatures around 30°C were recently recorded in the east and south of the country.