Catalonia to impose water restrictions to fight drought

Catalonia's regional government has put 515 municipalities with 6.6 million inhabitants on high alert for drought. Here's what residents should know about water restrictions.

Catalonia to impose water restrictions to fight drought
Drought declared in Catalonia. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

The lack of rain and high autumn temperatures have meant that several reservoirs in the northeastern region are currently only at 33 percent capacity, resulting in Catalonia facing drought.

The Ter-Llobregat system, the Darnius and the Baodella reservoirs are all affected by the low water levels.

Restrictions on water consumption will be applied across 515 municipalities affecting 6.6 million inhabitants, the councillor for Acció Climàtica (Climate Action), Teresa Jordà, announced on Monday November 21st.  

“Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 22nd) we will declare a drought alert in the Ter-Llobregat basin. There will be 26 counties in alert,” she said in an interview with Ràdio Catalunya.  

According to the Catalan Drought Plan, the Ter-Llobregat system goes into alert when the reservoirs fall below 210 cubic hectometres. This is already happening and this Tuesday, November 22nd the Interdepartmental Drought Commission will meet to declare a drought alert.

The restrictions will come into force when the resolution of the director of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) is published in the Official Gazette of the Government of Catalunya (DOGC), which is thought to be scheduled for the end of the week.

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What will change?  

When the restrictions have been approved, water consumption will have to be reduced for agricultural, livestock, industrial and recreational uses. Specifically, agricultural consumption must be restricted by 25 percent; for livestock by 10 percent; for industrial uses by 5 percent; for recreational uses involving irrigation by 30 percent and for other recreational uses by 5 percent.

For now, there won’t be any restrictions on the domestic supply of drinking water, but there will be a few limitations on the general public. 

  • You will not be allowed to fill your swimming pool. 
  • There will be restrictions on how much you can use to water your garden.  
  • Those who have a garden are advised to water it every other day and only during the cooler hours to ensure the survival of trees and plants.  
  • You are also not allowed to fill ornamental fountains or clean the streets with water from the general supply.
  • A maximum of 250 litres of water per day per person is set (a five-minute shower uses on average 100 litres).  

Up until now, there were 301 municipalities with water restrictions. These included areas around Llobregat Mitjà, Anoia Gaià, Empordà, the Serralada Transversal, Banyoles, Prades Llaberia and the Fluvià de la Muga, which have all been suffering from drought in recent weeks. Now the Ter-Llobregat system and the Darnius and the Baodella reservoirs have been added.  

The Ter-Llobregat system supplies drinking water to more than 100 municipalities in the Alt Penedès, Anoia, Baix Llobregat, Barcelonès, Garraf, Maresme, La Selva, Vallès Oriental and Vallès Occidental regions, with a population of around five millions of inhabitants.

The Drought Plan has been in place for over a year, as the Ter-Llobregat system was in pre-alert phase since February 2021.  

In these last nine months, the Catalan Agency of Water (ACA) has implemented measures to slow down the decline of water in reservoirs.  

According to Climate Action, the production of desalination plants has been boosted, which have gone from 20 percent to 90 percent of their capacity and have contributed more than 54 cubic hectometres to the system.

This contribution has made it possible to mitigate the decline of water levels in the reservoirs and avoid greater restrictions than currently seen.  

“If today we are at 34 percent of reserves, without the desalination plants we would have stood at 27 percent,” sources from Climate Action have stressed.      

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Spanish reservoirs fill up to highest level since last May

After one of the worst droughts in Spain this summer, the good news is that the country’s reservoirs are filling up again and are now already at 50 percent of their capacity.

Spanish reservoirs fill up to highest level since last May

The water levels of Spanish reservoirs continue to rise and are already at 50.9 percent of their capacity, the latest data reveals, a figure that has not been seen since May 2022.

Storms and rainfall in recent weeks have caused water reserves to increase to 28,533 cubic hectometres.

Statistics show water levels have risen for the seventh consecutive week and continue to improve on the previous week too. 

There is also a great improvement compared to the same week of 2022, when the capacity was only at 45.19 percent. 

The current figure has, in fact, almost reached the average of the last 10 years, which amounts to 56.69 percent capacity.

Asturias is the region that has benefitted from the recent rains the most and the capacity of its reservoirs currently stands at 92.76 percent.

This is followed by its neighbour Galicia where levels are currently at 88.6 percent. In third place is the Basque Country where reservoirs have reached 68.05 percent capacity. 

This lies in stark contrast to the south of Spain where levels are still very low. The capacity of the reservoirs in Murcia is only at 25.68 percent and in Andalusia it’s only 29.75 percent.

The latest report from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge shows that many of the country’s drainage basins are also recovering with Galicia Costa at 94.9 percent, Cantábrico Occidental at 91 percent and Miño-Sil, also in Galicia, at 84.2 percent. 

The much-needed rainfall has affected the entire peninsula in the last couple of weeks with the maximum recorded in Santander of 182.2 millimeters. 

Last summer, regions across Spain suffered from the lack of water and reserves fell to 39 percent, the lowest percentage since 1995.

However, a further study published by the Nature Geoscience journal claimed that the summer droughts of 2022 left parts of the Iberian peninsula at their driest in 1,200 years.