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Drought in Andalusia: coping with an escalating water crisis in Spain

  • Drought in Andalusia: coping with an escalating water crisis in Spain
    Taberna Desert, Almería, Spain (Credit: Pablo González-Cebrián/Fotos iAgua).
  • This region of Spain is particularly affected by drought, with significant implications for its economy and for social wellbeing.
  • The Regional Government of Andalusia is already allocating 517.8 million euros to promote measures to deal with water resource scarcity.

Andalusia, in southern Spain, is facing an extremely serious drought situation, exacerbated by a context of climate change that predicts events of this nature with greater frequency and duration. This region, vital for agriculture and tourism in Spain, is particularly affected, with significant implications for its economy and social wellbeing: from agriculture, which suffers from the lack of irrigation, to the supply of drinking water for human consumption, to the impact on industry and tourism.

The region has been enduring drought conditions for six years, with the 2022-2023 hydrological year marking one of the driest periods. At the beginning of 2024, Andalusia's reservoirs are operating at just 21% of their capacity, signaling an unprecedented water crisis. Provinces such as Huelva, Cadiz, and Malaga, where most of the population is concentrated, are in a state of exceptional drought.

Main measures implemented

To combat this crisis, the Regional Government of Andalusia has launched a series of initiatives that seek not only immediate solutions, but also long-term sustainable strategies to ensure the availability of water resources for future generations. Investments to address water resource scarcity amount to 517.8 million euros.

  • “Sequía Plus” drought strategy: aims to improve water supply in areas affected by drought, promote water saving and mitigate its economic, social and environmental impacts. Measures range from the use of portable desalination plants to improvements in water treatment infrastructure and the expansion of water resources. The strategy also seeks to increase water security in several provinces, such as Malaga, Almeria and Huelva.
  • IV Drought Decree: with a budget of 217.8 million euros, it includes immediate measures, such as public works in several regions, the expansion of the Costa del Sol desalination plant and the promotion of the circular economy. Direct support is also provided to the agricultural sector, with subsidies, tax exemptions and new infrastructure.

These initiatives include a commitment to alternative sources such as the use of reclaimed water and desalination. In this regard, the president of the Regional Government, Juanma Moreno, stressed the importance of developing a master plan for desalination. This plan seeks to expand and optimize desalination capacity in the region, which could provide a sustainable source of water for consumption and irrigation, thereby reducing dependence on rainfall and improving resilience to future periods of drought.

Next steps

Another measure being contemplated, and which has already been proposed in Catalonia, another Spanish region suffering from extreme drought, is transporting water in ships. Carmen Crespo, Regional Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, recently met with the president of the Port Authority to study the best option in the event of an extreme situation.

Likewise, Andalusia has already taken to Brussels the climatic singularity of region, in order to request funds to continue with the Water Policy that has been positioned as one of the priorities of the Andalusian Government.

While these initiatives reflect a comprehensive and proactive approach to address the drought crisis in Andalusia, this water crisis is an extraordinary and urgent situation that requires an immediate response with results in the short, medium and long term, which highlights the importance of efficiency in water distribution and optimizing the use of alternative water sources, given the scarcity situation shows no signs of improvement.

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