Drought emergency grips northeast Spain as water reservoirs plummet – WFIN Local News

Catalonia has declared a drought emergency because reservoirs that supply 6 million people, including Barcelona, ​​are at historic lows, leading to restrictions on water use.Small towns like Gualba have been experiencing water shortages since last December, and residents have had to buy bottled water in other towns.Spain has faced below-average rainfall for three years amid record temperatures, exacerbating water shortage problems, especially in rural areas.

Plastic jugs in hand, Joan Torrent enters the forest in search of drinking water. She fills them at a natural spring and then drags them back to his house in Gualba, a picturesque town near Barcelona that, like many towns in Spain, is suffering the worst of a record drought.

For Torrent, making this trip in search of water several times a week with the two-gallon jugs is a minor inconvenience, but one that may become more common as Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean adapt to climate change.

“Gualba was full of springs. Now I think it's the only one left,” said Torrent, a 64-year-old retiree, as he headed to the fountain connected to the spring. “I don't think we are aware of what awaits us all. … People don’t want to hear about lack of water.”


officials in The northeast region of Spain. of Catalonia declared a drought emergency on Thursday, with reservoirs supplying 6 million people, including the population of Barcelona, ​​below 16% of their capacity, a historic low.

The emergency, which goes into effect Friday, limits the daily amount of water allowed for residential and municipal purposes to 53 gallons per person. Catalonia's water agency says the average resident uses 30 gallons per day at home.

"We are entering a new climate reality," said the regional president of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, when announcing the emergency. "It is more than likely that we will see more droughts that will be more intense and more frequent."

However, Gualba and other small cities and towns in the Catalan countryside have been in crisis for months. So, while the population of Barcelona has not yet felt the impact of the drought beyond not being able to fill private pools and wash cars, thousands of people living in small communities that depend on wells that are now drying up are experiencing difficulties in obtaining water suitable for consumption.

The name Gualba, according to local tradition, means "white water", after the streams that flow from the Montseny mountain that overlooks the town. The town of about 1,500 residents has been without drinking water since December, when the local reservoir fell so low that the water became undrinkable and only good for washing clothes and dishes.

Most residents have to drive to another city to buy bottled water.

"We have always had plenty of water," said Jordi Esmaindia, deputy mayor of Gualba. “No one imagined we would be like this.”

Spain has experienced three years of below-average rainfall amid record temperatures, and conditions are only expected to worsen thanks to climate change, which is expected to warm the Mediterranean area more quickly than other regions.

Reservoirs fed by the Ter and Llobregat rivers in northern Catalonia have fallen to 15.8% of their capacity, while their 10-year average is 70%. Only the Guadalete-Barbate river basin in southern Andalusia, which faces similar shortages and restrictions, is worse off, at 14.6%.

Barcelona has avoided water shortages by boosting its expensive desalination and water purification systems, which now account for 55% of all water use in Catalonia. Still, regional authorities in Barcelona and Seville, the southern headquarters of Andalusia, are considering sending drinking water.

Catalan authorities in Barcelona threaten to fine municipalities if their residents, farmers and businesses do not comply with water restrictions. They are also urging them to increase water bills to pay for pipe modernization.

"Some municipalities lose between 70 and 80% of their water due to leaks," Catalan government official Laura Vilagrà told Spanish national radio RNE. "That's not sustainable."

Water management experts fear that the countryside will continue to be the most affected. The restrictions have reduced water for pigs and other herd animals by 50% and for crop irrigation by 80%, a major blow to the rural economy.

"It's telling that this drought is making headlines simply because it affects Barcelona... when we have towns in the Pyrenees that have suffered from water shortages and have needed water trucked in for several months," said Dante Maschio, spokesman for the Catalan Association. non-profit organization Aigua és vida.

"If drought is not managed correctly, it can lead to greater inequality and tension between cities and rural areas," Maschio said.


Many cities transport water by tanker truck, often at enormous cost. The Catalan government has shared $4.3 million (of a total of $206 million dedicated to fighting the drought) among 213 municipalities to help pay to transport water.

Still, some cities have to turn off the taps, such as Espluga de Francolí, which cuts off the water supply daily from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. to allow its wells to recover overnight.

Eva Martínez is mayor of Vallirana, a city of 15,000 inhabitants just over half an hour west of Barcelona. For months now, her municipality has had periods in which she has had to bring water through trucks that park in the neighborhoods for neighbors to fill bottles and buckets.

“We understand that it is frustrating for citizens when we have problems with water and when we cannot provide water in the quantity and quality that is required,” Martínez said. “We see that it is not raining. The situation is desperate.”

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