Facing a historic drought, the worst ever recorded in this region of northeastern Spain, residents of Catalonia are preparing for significant water restrictions and waiting for rains to fail.
• Also read: Establishment of a “European Port Alliance” against drug trafficking
• Also read: Drugs and rituals: A shamanic organization is dismantled in Spain
“We have had below average rainfall for three years. The situation has become critical,” says Eva Martínez, socialist mayor of Vallirana, a large city of 16,000 people located half an hour’s drive from Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia.
“The city used to receive around 600, 700, 800 liters of precipitation per square meter per year. Last year we didn’t reach 300 liters,” adds the 47-year-old local councilor.
In a sign of the intensity of the drought, abandoned villages in the region have emerged from the water in recent months, flooded during the construction of dams in the 20th century.
If reservoir levels fall below 16%, which appears to be imminent, authorities will have no choice but to declare a state of emergency.
The five million inhabitants of Barcelona and its metropolitan area could then be the most affected, as water pressure in their homes drops and water consumption will be limited to 160 liters per day per person, compared to the current 200 liters.
In Vallirana, some neighborhoods are already running out of water. “We can't do the dishes, wash the clothes, we can't use the washing machines… or even pee,” laments Alex Fonseca, a resident of Vallirana who came to fill several cans from a tanker to his home to cover needs.
In this city, the lack of rainfall has dried up several wells or turned the water into mud, and many neighborhoods, like Mr. Fonseca's, no longer have drinking water.
“Living like this in 2024 is difficult,” sighs this father, wearing a hooded coat and long hair.
Harvesting at half-mast
Rainfall in Catalonia has been below average for three years. According to the regional government, this is twice as long as the longest drought to date, which peaked in 2008.
Due to global warming, which is leading to an increase in extreme weather phenomena, the frequency and intensity of droughts are increasing, particularly endangering the food security of the population.
“Last year, 100% of the grain crop and 90% of the fodder crop were lost in the region,” Francesc Bancells, spokesman for the agricultural union Unió de Pagesos, told AFP.
This year, “I would sign up to get even half the harvest,” he adds, in one of the rare fields that have survived the advance of industrial areas in Valldoreix, near Barcelona.
Dowsers, who pride themselves on being able to discover underground springs, are now “much more in demand,” explains AFP Enric Colom, 78, who spent 25 years tracking down Sarsaneda's wells with his friend Lluis for help. with a simple stick and a pendulum.
Too much tourism?
For the NGO “Agua es vida” (“Water is Life”), the authorities also share responsibility in the current situation, because they refuse to regulate tourism – a major water consumer – and continue to organize major events in Barcelona.
“The Catalan government” gives water to everyone, “to agriculture, to livestock, to the hotel and tourism sectors and to the urban sector, without first thinking about how much water we have.” This leads us to situations of collapse,” denounces their spokesman Dante Maschio.
Faced with this crisis, the authorities have begun preparing to transport boats loaded with water to Barcelona, but given the needs, this will only be an emergency solution, assures Professor Xavier Sánchez Vila, director of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC).
The region can also count on several seawater desalination plants. However, Professor Sánchez Vila particularly emphasizes the need to use more groundwater and improve wastewater reuse.
The situation is similar in Andalusia (south of the country), another region of Spain severely affected by drought and which is planning to introduce restrictions on water consumption if there is no rain, particularly in Seville and Malaga.
Given the situation, “we need 30 days of rain” in a row, the region's president, Juan Manuel Moreno, recently emphasized. “Not that it’s raining, but that it’s really raining,” he added.