Catalonia takes measures to tackle 'the worst drought on record'

Catalonia has declared a national emergency and imposed rigorous water use restrictions and fines to combat what it is calling the worst drought on record, which is affecting over six million people.

The agricultural and industrial sectors are not exempt from the impact, facing significant cuts to water allocation.
In brief:
  • Catalonia declares a drought emergency, with Barcelona and surrounding areas facing severe water use restrictions.

  • Fines for non-compliance can reach up to €3,000 for activities like car washing or garden watering.

  • Authorities consider importing water by ship and implementing further restrictions if the situation worsens.

In detail: 

Catalonia has declared a drought emergency, signalling a drastic shift in response to the region's worst drought since records began.

The declaration affects over six million residents, including those in Barcelona, and stringent restrictions on water use have been imposed with immediate effect, with substantial fines for violations.

The emergency measures prohibit activities such as car washing, garden watering and filling swimming pools, with fines ranging up to €3,000 for severe breaches.

The Catalan government acknowledged the gravity of the situation, but its statement that, "We are entering a new climate reality", only hinted at an expectation for more frequent and intense droughts in the future.

The drought has led to reservoirs dipping to critical levels, with some areas seeing reserves fall below 16%. This dire situation has prompted discussions with Spain's Minister of Energy and Climate, Teresa Ribera, on the potential for importing water from other territories.

Authorities have outlined a phased plan to manage water consumption, starting with a limit of 200 litres per person per day, potentially decreasing to 160 litres if necessary. Despite these measures, the average water use in Spain remains below the emergency thresholds, at 133 litres per day.

The agricultural and industrial sectors are not exempt and also face significant cuts to their water allocations. The emergency declaration aims to reduce water for crop irrigation by 80%, for livestock by 50%, and for industry by 25%.

And the crisis is not isolated to Catalonia; Spain and the broader Mediterranean region are experiencing similar conditions, exacerbated by climate change.

The Mediterranean is warming faster than many other areas, contributing to the increased frequency and intensity of droughts.

Experts and government officials are calling for a comprehensive approach to water management, emphasising the need for sustainable practices and the importance of preparing for a future where water scarcity may become the norm. 

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