Nearly nine million people in Spain face water restrictions

by Lorraine Williamson
water restrictions

The water shortage is causing many problems in different parts of Spain. This calls for action. Currently, almost nine million people are already facing water restrictions due to the drought.  

The hardest-hit regions are Catalonia and Andalucia. Here at least 600 municipalities are facing restricted consumption and even early morning supply interruptions. In Catalonia, some 6.6 million people are affected. And, in Andalucia, it is around 2 million. There are also restrictions in municipalities in Extremadura and in Galicia, the Balearic Islands (in Mallorca and Menorca) and Aragon (another 150,000 people).  

Residents will have restrictions on consumption imposed and must take into account the water cut-off at night. Therefore they must stock up during the day to have enough water in case they need it later. 


Some kind of restriction is already in place in 495 municipalities in Catalonia. This means almost half of the territory is affected. The measures range from restricting street cleaning with drinking water to watering gardens or banning activities such as washing cars. As well as reducing quotas for rural areas. The lack of rain this week forced the government to go one step further and declare a state of emergency -the worst possible scenario- in 22 municipalities in Girona. 

The town of Riudecañas in Tarragona has been unable to irrigate for some time and has lost almost half its crop because of very little rain. Consequently, this will only push prices up further. 


According to data from NGO Greenpeace, there are more than a hundred towns in Andalucia with some kind of restriction. For the past month, the thousand El Borge (Málaga) residents have been affected by a stop in water supply. The tap does not run between midnight and seven in the morning to give the municipal reservoir time to recover and provide water to residents throughout the day. The reservoir, La Viñuela, has only 8.6% of its capacity left, a historic minimum.  


In the seaside resort of Vélez-Málaga, 80,000 residents -and in August this number doubles- see nothing coming out of the tap every night. To ease the situation, the area is already being supplied with water from Málaga and from the catchment areas of the river Chíllar, in Nerja. A few weeks ago, the government announced the construction of a desalination plant in the area. Moreover, it will invest around €100 million on the construction. 

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Also read: The world´s largest desalination plant could be in Spain


The city of Málaga has also imposed restrictions. Beach showers will be closed from Tuesday, following the example of all municipalities on Málaga’s east coast. This is with the exception of Nerja – and other parts of the Huelva and Cadiz coast – such as Ayamonte, Tarifa and La Línea de la Concepción. In Málaga, these plants account for only 0.24% of the city’s water consumption, according to municipal data, but sources at the city administration believe the measure will serve to raise awareness among the population. 


Measures have also been introduced in the province and city of Seville. The new mayor of Seville, José Luis Sanz, has indicated that the municipal plan against drought will be reviewed in September. Currently, water-saving measures are limited to banning the use of drinking water from the network for watering green areas, irrigating streets or the impossibility of filling swimming pools without a closed circuit. In 2021, Seville launched a plan to encourage savings in water consumption to reduce the number of litres of water used per inhabitant from 116 to 90.So far, this has been reduced to 112. A dozen villages in the Sierra de Aracena in Huelva province also face water shortages. 

Havoc caused by climate change and poor water management

Climate change and poor water management are wreaking havoc not only on the country’s fields and ecosystems, but also among its people, says Greenpeace, an organisation that claims the use of this vital resource is exacerbating drought in many parts of the country. The agricultural sector is bearing the brunt of the ongoing water shortage. Consequently, this is an economic disaster for many families.

Little rain forecast

However, ecologists say intensive agriculture and animal husbandry are also part of the problem, as they consume 80% of resources. ‘We have an unsustainable model, says Julio Barea, head of Greenpeace’s water campaign, who believes the situation will only get worse now that little rain is forecast, at least until the end of September. The drought is also affecting wildlife – in Andalucia, artificial drinking troughs are already being installed to prevent deaths due to thirst – and tourism, for example because it is impossible to exercise in empty reservoirs. 

Awareness campaigns  

Awareness is one of the key issues for both municipalities and companies responsible for water distribution. The public company Giahsa informs on its social networks about the outages affecting municipalities and their timetables. These times vary depending on the time needed to restore minimum levels in reservoirs. In some cases, supplies are carried out with water tankers. 

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