Drought Wreaks Havoc In Spain

Catalonian officials on February 1 declared a drought emergency for the northeast Spanish region as the reservoirs that provide water to the 6 million residents, including those in Barcelona, dropped below 16 percent capacity, the Associated Press reported.

In announcing the drought emergency, Catalan regional president Pere Aragonès blamed the drought on climate change and warned that it was possible the region would see more “intense” and “frequent” droughts in the years ahead.

The drought emergency, which took effect on February 2, will limit the daily amount of water for both residential and municipal use to 53 gallons per person. According to the region’s water agency, the average resident in Catalonia uses 30 gallons a day just at home.

Water usage will also be cut for agriculture and industry, with the drought emergency reducing water used for crop irrigation by 80 percent and herd animals by 50 percent. Industry must cut water usage by 25 percent.

The area covered by the drought emergency runs from northern Catalonia to the French border.

Catalonia has experienced 40 consecutive months of below-average rainfall, which climate experts blame on climate change.

The region has had several months of rolling water restrictions that have grown in severity as the water levels continued to drop in the reservoirs. The restrictions, including bans on watering lawns, washing cars, or filling private swimming pools, will remain in effect during the drought emergency. Municipal governments will no longer be permitted to use potable water to clean the streets.

Because 55 percent of Catalonia’s water is from desalination and water regeneration systems, the region has been able to avoid harsher restrictions. Spanish officials are investing millions of euros in expanding or constructing desalination plants in the coastal areas that are most affected by the drought.

Both Catalonia and Andalusia in the south are also preparing to import water if needed, a pricey option that Spanish officials conceded would have little impact.