The severe drought in Catalonia has led the Catalan government to consider measures to restrict water-intensive economic activities.
These could include bans on opening or expanding hotels, large farms, data centres, football pitches and chemical plants.
Catalonia is suffering the worst drought in history in terms of magnitude, duration and intensity. To reverse it would require 500 millimetres of rain. That´s all the rain that falls in Barcelona in a year when there are no problems due to water shortages. However, this rain is not to be expected in the coming months.
The Catalan government is therefore preparing to ban the opening or expansion of economic activities that consume a significant amount of water when the drought emergency, the worst phase of the drought plan, is declared. The pre-emergency is expected to be declared next week. This is a kind of transition during which measures yet to be determined will be taken. But if the water crisis worsens, a state of emergency will be declared. Moreover, this is a more than likely scenario according to the government.
The government does not yet have specific figures on what it means by high water consumption. However, it is already clear about some of the cases that will be affected. For example, it will not be possible to allow new hotel accommodation, nor to expand or open paper, metal or data centre industries, nor to allow the growth of farms or the admission of new livestock farms. With this decision, the government wants to close the door on the possibility demand for water will continue to grow.
The Catalan government does not intend to stop or reduce economic activities that are already taking place or whose expansion or creation has already started. These are new expansions in the sectors mentioned. The sub-government wants to ensure that it is not only ordinary citizens who bear the burden of these restrictions. Hence the decision to restrict the growth of economic activities.
Limited impact on economy
According to the state government, the measures should not have a serious impact on the economy as current activities will not be affected. If it rains enough and the scenario changes, the green light can be given for expansions again.
Measures of this magnitude have an impact although the sub-government does not quantify how many companies of this type apply for expansions or set up in Catalonia every month.
In the coming weeks, the interdepartmental drought commission, a body that includes the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) and several ministries, will continue to meet to analyse the situation and take appropriate measures. To date, the government is still working to ensure the availability of water from wells and new desalination plants. But pending completion of the works, the main solution to avoid an emergency is the arrival of abundant rains and a drop in consumption.