State of emergency declared in Catalonia amid severe drought

by Lorraine Williamson
state of emergency declared in Catalonia

BARCELONA – In an unprecedented move in Spain, the Generalitat of Catalonia has declared a state of emergency due to draught across approximately twenty municipalities in Girona. This action, initiated by the Agència Catalana de l’Aigua (ACA), marks the first time such a decision has been made in the region’s history.  

The directive, set to take effect next week, is anticipated to impact around 25,000 inhabitants, underscoring the challenges imposed by climate change. The measure will come into effect on Monday. This is after publication in the Catalan official journal ‘Diario Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya’. 

A tweet from the ACA relayed a message from its director, Samuel Reyes, stating, “The Fluvià Muga and Riudecanyes water reservoirs are moving into an emergency phase as their reserves dwindle, primarily due to the reduced rainfall over recent months.” Additional information from an ACA press conference highlighted that the Fluvià Muga reservoir has plummeted to its lowest levels since 2009. In parallel, the Riudecanyes reservoir is alarmingly hovering at 6%. For context, the reservoirs in Girona typically sit at a ten-year average of 75.95% during this season. But at the moment, they are languishing at just 26.87%. 

Agricultural irrigation suspended 

Prompted by the emergency, a complete halt on agricultural irrigation has been mandated. Domestic water consumption has also been curtailed, capped at 200 litres daily per person, before 230 litres). Furthermore, the industrial water consumption was reduced by 25%, which was 15%.  

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Related: Spain receives 81 million in EU aid to fight drought 

Although a commencement date for these regulations has been identified, no conclusion date has been projected. This is largely attributed to weather forecasts that show no immediate relief from the parched conditions. While these water constraints predominantly target municipal utilities, the ACA accentuates the imperative of judicious water usage by households. 

Impacted municipalities in Alt Empordà 

Municipalities such as Agullana, Armentera, Capmany, and Espolla in Alt Empordà are among those affected. Presently, Catalonia’s cumulative water reserves are critically low at 27%. The gravity of the situation has prodded the Catalan administration to institute this significant action, amplifying the urgency to address the climate crisis. 

A dismal overview despite a wet June 

Contrary to hopes, a rainy June did little to ameliorate the dire conditions. The water scarcity persists, echoing throughout Catalonia and Spain at large. Currently, the national reservoirs’ average levels are at a concerning 42.16%. This marks a 16% drop compared to the decade’s average levels for this period. 

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