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Catalonia declares drought emergency in 202 municipalities, including Barcelona and Girona

  • Catalonia declares drought emergency in 202 municipalities, including Barcelona and Girona
    Rialp reservoir on 12 June 2023. (Credit: Pablo González-Cebrián).
  • Catalonia’s President Pere Aragonès and his Minister for Climate Action, David Mascort, spoke at a press conference after an extraordinary meeting of the Interdepartmental Commission on Drought.
  • The measures will mainly affect recreational water uses and garden irrigation.
  • Phase 1 of the emergency limits consumption to 200 litres per inhabitant per day.

The Government of Catalonia has officially declared this Thursday the state of emergency due to drought in Barcelona and its metropolitan area, and in Girona and its surroundings. This was announced by Catalonia’s President Pere Aragonès and his Minister for Climate Action, David Mascort, at a press conference after an extraordinary meeting of the Interdepartmental Commission on Drought. After noting the alarming situation of the region's reservoirs, which have fallen below 100 cubic hectometres, the threshold for a drought emergency, it was decided to declare an emergency in the Ter-Llobregat system.

Among the most important measures is the restriction on the filling of swimming pools in hotels, campsites and water parks. These facilities will only be able to use seawater to fill all or part of their pools, as long as they are not connected to the water supply or sanitation networks. This measure seeks to preserve fresh water for human consumption in view of the critical drop in reserves in the reservoirs of the Ter-Llobregat system, which have fallen below 100 cubic hectometres.

Another blow to tourism is the ban on the use of showers on beaches, a measure that was already applied last summer by some municipalities such as Sitges, while others opted to keep them in operation. This summer, however, the restriction will be generalized in the areas affected by the emergency.

The hotel industry anticipates a negative impact, with the possibility of tourists opting for alternative destinations that offer guaranteed access to swimming pools. Faced with this worrying prospect, the Vice-President of the Government of Catalonia, Laura Vilagrà, has assured that "drinking water will not be lacking", even if this means resorting to measures never before used in Catalonia. Vilagrà has ruled out water supply cuts to hotel infrastructures, even if the drought persists.

In addition to restrictions on recreational water use, Phase 1 of the emergency limits consumption to 200 litres per person per day. The irrigation of trees and botanical gardens is prohibited, except to ensure their survival, and the filling of swimming pools and the use of showers in gyms and sports facilities is restricted.

These unprecedented measures seek to mitigate the effects of one of the worst droughts on record in Catalonia, while urging the population and affected sectors to adopt responsible water consumption. The situation highlights the urgent need to adopt long-term strategies for sustainable water management in the face of climate change and extreme weather events.

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