What role do swimming pools play in drought-plagued Spain?

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swimming pools

The state of emergency due to drought in parts of Catalonia and Andalucia is not yet drawing much attention to swimming pools. These are facilities that are largely out of use at this time of year.

However, the ban on filling or refilling swimming facilities in a state of emergency in all municipalities has raised concerns among users, owners and companies in the tourism sector. Here and there, questionable solutions of filling swimming pools with seawater or purchasing portable desalination plants by hotels are already being suggested. To understand the scale of Spain’s potential problem in this regard, it helps to know how many pools the country has, where they are located and how much water they need.

The only authority with reliable data on the number of swimming pools built in Spain is the Land Registry. This falls under the Ministry of Finance. However, this does not include data from the Basque Country and Navarre. The newspaper La Vanguardia relies on this data to provide an overview of the number of swimming establishments in Spain. Although this will not include the most recently built ones.

How many swimming pools are there in Spain?

The 2023 update of this database indicates that a total of 1,291,206 swimming facilities are registered in Spain (1,277,052 open-air and 14,154 indoor). This amounts to 2.85 swimming pools per 100 inhabitants. This is based on the total population census in Spain, minus the Basque Country and Navarre. Seen another way, this concerns one per 35 inhabitants.

The absolute figures and percentages are very diverse per community. With Andalucia in first place with a total of 306,151 swimming pools (3.60 per 100 inhabitants). At the other end of the spectrum is the northwestern Spanish region of Cantabria with 4,350 swimming pools (0.73 per 100 inhabitants).

How many are there in Catalonia?

According to the Land Registry, 195,895 swimming pools are registered in Catalonia (194,093 open-air and 1,802 indoor). This corresponds to 2.45 per 100 inhabitants.

In addition to the maximum and minimum figures already mentioned for Andalucia and Cantabria, the land registry data show that, for example, the Community of Madrid has a total of 140,551 swimming pools (2.04 per 100 inhabitants). In the Valencia region there are 247,870 swimming pools (4.86 per 100 inhabitants). The Balearic Islands have 75,264 swimming pools (6.39 per 100 inhabitants). In all cases, the ratio of pools to residents is based on January 1, 2023 census data on the total population. It is therefore clear that the ratio of swimming pool to inhabitants is very different if tourists are also taken into account.

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Municipalities with the most and fewest pools

In proportion to its population, the municipality of Badia del Vallès in Catalonia has the fewest swimming pools (1 covered and 2 uncovered) in Catalonia for 13,074 inhabitants (0.02 per 100 inhabitants).

Also read: Building a swimming pool in Spain? You need to know this

In almost twenty Catalan municipalities, not a single swimming pool is registered. These include La Quar (Berguedà), Els Hostalets d’en Bas (Garrotxa) or Tuixent (Alt Urgell).

Madrid, Córdoba and Marbella have the most

The municipality with the most swimming pools in all of Spain is Madrid. Here there are 14,521 (0.43 per 100 inhabitants). The city of Córdoba follows with 11,704 (3.61 per 100 inhabitants). The municipality of Marbella comes in third with a total of 10,950 (6.97 per 100 inhabitants). This is followed by the towns of Murcia, Chiclana de la Frontera (Cádiz), Jávea/Xàbia (Alicante), Elche/Elx (Alicante), Mijas (Málaga), Orihuela (Alicante), Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid), Palma (Balears), Málaga, Torrent (Valencia), Rivas-Vaciamadrid (Madrid), Lliria (Valencia) and Calvià (Balears). Only the first Catalan municipality appears at 19th place on this national list. That is Sant Cugat del Vallès, with 4,896 swimming facilities (5.01 per 100 inhabitants).

In the city of Barcelona, people can swim in 1,517 facilities (1,364 open-air and 153 indoor; 0.09 per 100 inhabitants), while in the city of Madrid there are a total of 14,521  pools (0.44 per 100 inhabitants).

Fill reservoirs with swimming pool water?

There are no precise data on the total volume of water in Spanish swimming pools. That is why La Vanguardia takes an average pool with approximately 50,000 litres of water as a reference. In that case, all pools in Catalonia together would contain, for example, 9.7 cubic hectometres of water. For comparison, the Sau reservoir has a capacity of 165 cubic hectometres. The current water reserve in all reservoirs of Catalonia’s river basins is now approximately 105 cubic hectometres. La Vanguardia envisions transferring all the pool water to the reservoirs. The conclusion is that this can increase available water resources by 9.2%.

Also read: Half a million swimming pools in Spain threatened by drought

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