Water shortage forces Catalonia and Andalucia to implement drastic restrictions

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drastic restrictions

MADRID – In Andalucia and Catalonia, thousands of people are experiencing the effects of water shortages. With low water levels in reservoirs and underground, both autonomous regions are considering drastic measures to continue guaranteeing water supply.

Although rain has returned to many parts of Spain, it remains dry in the south and northeast of the country. Many water reservoirs have been refilled in recent months to prepare for the upcoming dry summer months. However, Andalucia and Catalonia are starting 2024 with more than depleted water reserves.

Water supply restrictions

According to the weekly report from the Ministry of Ecological Transition quoted in El País, the following reservoirs are in the worst condition: Guadalquivir (at 19.3% of total capacity), Segura (18.9%), Andalucian Mediterranean Basins (18.8%), internal basins of Catalonia (16.8%), and Guadalete-Barbate (14.5%).

Both in Andalucia and Catalonia, stricter supply restrictions are being prepared. Among other things, it is being considered to transport water by boat.

Critical situation persists even after rain

Even if it rains in the coming days, the situation in Catalonia remains critical, and an emergency looms. Although water still flows from taps in Barcelona, in 70 municipalities, the water supply is already interrupted for several hours a day. These municipalities have almost depleted their own supplies and are now supplied by water tankers. There are even places where the local population stores water in jerry cans, buckets, or water tanks to get through the hours without tap water.

Thousands of euros for water

Municipalities are doing everything they can to continue providing water to residents, spending thousands of euros on various measures. Not only water tankers and pipelines to areas that still have water are being used, but also solidarity plans, water depots, and special drought plans to guarantee water supply.

The government of Catalonia introduced changes in the special drought plans (PES) in December to combat the severe water shortage. For example, showers in certain sports centers can no longer be used, and water-intensive industries have been restricted. The extraction of water from the rivers Llobregat, Ter, and Muga has also been limited.

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Waiting for new water installations

These are drastic measures intended to bridge the period until water purification plants, desalination facilities, and water extraction installations increase the volume of water production.

Read also: Why drought problems especially in Andalucia and Catalonia?

Catalonia’s regional leader, Pere Aragonés, indicates that in the most severe scenario, water will be transported by boat to the port of Barcelona. The Catalan president is relying on the support of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for this. January will be a challenging month for nearly six million Catalans. Depending on rainfall, water usage will be gradually reduced from 200 litres to 180 litres and then to 160 litres per day.

Stricter measures also in Andalucia

If it doesn’t rain in Andalucia before the summer, even stricter measures are expected. Currently, 3.5 million Andalucians are already facing water restrictions. The weather forecast does not look favourable for the southern region at the moment. Agriculture is already severely affected by the drought. However, cities and tourist attractions will also face water restrictions if the drought persists, and restrictive measures will be expanded.

First water tankers likely needed in March

The Andalucian government believes that water tankers will need to be used as early as March to supply water to the driest areas. The Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar are the driest areas in Andalucia. Meanwhile, €71 million has been earmarked in the drought plan for new boreholes, water purification plants, and desalination facilities.

Andalucia has been grappling with drought since 2016, and there doesn’t appear to be a quick improvement in the situation. Despite the critical situation, there have been hardly any additional irrigation restrictions imposed on agriculture. Carlos García, president of the association of municipalities in the Sierra de Cádiz, is demanding that the Junta de Andalucía take action in this regard and prioritise drinking water for the population.

Emergency in Axarquía

The autonomous region is experiencing one weather record after another and is hotter and drier than ever. There seems to be an emergency now as reservoirs and water supplies are not being replenished. The situation is most critical in the Axarquía region, where the largest reservoir, La Viñuela, contains only 7.4% of its water capacity. In around a dozen villages in the area, water is cut off every night. Agriculture in Axarquía is also severely affected by the drought, with mango and avocado harvests dropping by 80%.

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