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Catalonia’s worst drought in a century prompts declaration of drought emergency, new water restrictions, Spain

Catalonia's worst drought in a century prompts declaration of drought emergency, new water restrictions, Spain

Barcelona and the wider region of Catalonia have declared a drought emergency following three consecutive years of insufficient rainfall, leading to reservoir levels falling critically low. Pere Aragones, the head of the regional government, announced immediate water-saving restrictions affecting six million people. With reservoirs at less than 16% capacity, the emergency is described as the worst drought Catalonia has experienced in a century, necessitating drastic reductions in water usage for residents, municipalities, farmers, and businesses alike.

Spain’s second-largest city, Barcelona, and the surrounding Catalonia region have been placed under a drought emergency as of Thursday, February 1, 2024. This declaration by Catalonia’s regional government head, Pere Aragones, comes after a prolonged period of dryness, with reservoirs in the Mediterranean area dropping below 16% capacity, a critical threshold that has led to the implementation of stringent water-saving measures affecting an estimated six million individuals.

Pere Aragones highlighted the gravity of the situation in a press briefing, stating, “Catalonia is suffering the worst drought in the last century… we have never faced such a long and intense drought since rainfall records began.”

The emergency protocols aim to reduce the daily water allocation from 210 liters (55 gallons) to 200 liters (52 gallons) per person, with further reductions to 180 liters (47 gallons) and then 160 liters (42 gallons) if conditions worsen. These measures extend to Barcelona and 201 neighboring local councils as of Friday, February 2.

In addition to household restrictions, public amenities and private usage face severe limitations. Fresh water filling of swimming pools is banned, except for certain sports-recognized uses, and car washing and public garden irrigation must now utilize recycled or groundwater sources, respectively. Should the drought persist, more drastic restrictions are poised to be enacted, including the shutdown of public showers in gyms and a total ban on watering public parks.

The agricultural and industrial sectors are not exempt, facing an 80% reduction in water for crop irrigation, a significant increase from the 40% cut implemented last November. Industrial water usage must decrease by 25%, up from the previous 15% requirement.

This crisis comes as Catalonia experiences rainfall amounts consistently below average for the past three years, exacerbating a drought condition that has now surpassed the duration of the 2008 dry spell. Xavier Sanchez Vila, from Catalonia’s Polytechnic University, warned of a “catastrophic” scenario if the drought continues for another year.

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The scarcity of rain has led to the resurfacing of previously submerged historical structures in some reservoirs, including old bridges and a church bell tower.

References:

1 Barcelona faces water restrictions as drought emergency declared – AFP – February 1, 2024

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