Drought emergency for 14 percent of Spanish territory

by Lorraine Williamson
drought emergency

MADRID – Of the total Spanish territory, 14.6% is in an emergency situation due to water shortages and drought. Another 27.4% of the country is in the danger zone because average precipitation is 17% lower than normal. 

The consequences are already disastrous according to a recent report by the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA). 

Decreasing water reservoirs 

Over the past decade, water reserves in Spain’s reservoirs have decreased dramatically. Currently they are at only 37% of their capacity. The water basins of the Guadalquivir (19.1%) and the internal water basins of Catalonia (23.3%) have been particularly affected. 

Insufficient rain 

Although Spain was recently hit by a Depresión Aislada en Niveles Altos (DANA), which caused abundant rainfall, this was not enough to solve the structural water problems. “It is just a drop in the ocean,” the ministries warn. 

Ecological stress 

The WWF emphasises that the water shortage in Spain is “much more serious” than in the rest of Europe. This is largely due to overexploitation of water resources by the agricultural, tourism and industrial sectors, among others, resulting in water reserves being well below historical averages. 

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Billions in investments needed 

To tackle this serious situation, the Spanish government is planning a major investment of €11.8 billion to promote desalination and water reuse. These measures are part of the Hydrological Plans 2022-2027 and the Special Drought Plans (PES). 

Disastrous impact on agriculture 

The drought is having catastrophic consequences for the agricultural sector. It is estimated that the production of autumn and winter grains will decrease by almost 40% compared to 2022. The corn area has even decreased by 20% due to the limited availability of irrigation water. Furthermore, there is an expected decline of 30% in the yield of oilseeds such as sunflower and rapeseed. 

Logistical challenges and government support 

Due to the reduced production, Spain is expected to have to import 20 million tons of grain, which will require a significant logistical effort. In addition, the government is taking precautionary measures by providing direct financial support worth €636.7 million, of which €355 million is intended for the meat and dairy sector and €276 million for agriculture. 

Also read: The largest desalination plant in the world will be in Murcia

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