Drought in Catalonia

swamp reduction

Recent weather conditions in Catalonia have raised concerns due to a significant lack of rainfall. Faced with this situation, the Government of the Generalitat declared a state of emergency due to drought on February 1, when water reserves fell below the critical threshold of 100 cubic hectometers (hm³).

In this article we are going to tell you everything you need to know about the current situation of the drought in Catalonia.

Recovery of water reserves

Catalonia drought

The recent rains have allowed the situation to improve. A few weeks ago, the Government decided to end the emergency phase in the Ter-Llobregat system, which supplies water to some six million people in the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona and part of Girona. This allowed restrictions to be eased thanks to an exceptionally wet month of May, generating cautious optimism among experts.

As the Atlantic storm and the Isolated Upper Level Depression (DANA) dissipated, Catalonia experienced a resurgence in rainfall in many regions. The Catalan Water Agency (ACA) reported that, as of June 2, The internal basins reached a water capacity of 30,46%, with a reserve of 211,55 hm³.

Rains in early May have relieved pressure on water reserves. Consequently, the Interdepartmental Drought Commission agreed to lift the state of alarm in the Ter-Llobregat area. Although water levels in the reservoirs are not yet ideal (currently at 25,4%), they have shown a positive trend compared to March figures (15%). David Mascort, Minister of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, explained that returning to the normal scenario will allow water to be conserved with greater flexibility, without the most restrictive measures. The proposal It was officially implemented on May 13 after its publication in the Official Gazette of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

Exceptional measures and restrictions

drought in catalonia

The official statement from the ACA highlighted the collective effort of society and the agricultural sector. These efforts, along with favorable weather conditions such as spring thaw and increased precipitation, have allowed the transition from the state of emergency to a less restrictive one.

Each affected municipality must incorporate specific savings measures into its plans. During the emergency phase, a daily consumption limit of 200 liters per resident was allowed, which has now been increased to 230 liters. Regarding recreational purposes, water consumption in urban areas has been reduced by 15%, and irrigation has suffered a 50% reduction.

For industrial users, Water consumption has been reduced by 15%, an improvement compared to the emergency phase, where the reduction was 25%. Users in the agricultural sector face a 40% reduction, compared to 80% during the emergency. The use of water for livestock purposes has been reduced by 30%. In addition, there is the possibility of implementing more flexible measures by submitting a Savings Plan to the ACA.

In the current situation, irrigation is allowed only in specific cases, such as the survival of trees and plants using drip systems or watering cans. Lawn irrigation is limited to sports fields for federated sports. The use of drinking water to clean urban areas is prohibited.

Preparations for summer

dry swamp

Catalonia faces a serious drought with the arrival of summer. In January 2024, the region suffered the most severe drought in its history, leading the ACA to declare an emergency scenario in the Ter-Llobregat reservoir system, affecting 202 municipalities.

Despite the improvement in the situation, the Interdepartmental Commission on Drought remains cautious. Summer involves increased water consumption due to use in swimming pools, public showers and irrigation, exacerbated by tourism. In anticipation of this situation, the ACA has prohibited the filling of personal swimming pools, allowing only the partial or initial filling of public or private pools with a water recirculation system. Vehicle cleaning is allowed on site only.

A significant novelty for 2024 is the Special Drought Plan, which establishes an equal consumption limit for both residents and visitors. According to data from the CIS advisor, in May 2023 Reservoirs represented 65% of water consumption, a figure that has now been reduced to 50%. With this information, Catalonia is preparing to face the next summer drought with a well-structured plan to avoid surpassing previous records.

Wetlands in the endorheic basin continue to rise steadily, helped mainly by widespread heavy rains in late April and frequent downpours in May. Let us remember that the last major storm is very important: Monday, April 29, was the rainiest day overall in Catalonia since November 23, 2021. After a long period of time, The reservoir has reached 30% of its capacity with an accumulated volume of more than 205 hm3, a figure not seen since the beginning of July last year and which has increased considerably due to recent strong storms in the main source. Reservations will continue to increase in the coming days. River flows remain good and irregular rains are expected over the next few days in the Pyrenees and eastern Pyrenees.

2023 is the most severe of the three drought years. According to ARA calculations based on data from 140 Meteocat stations and taking the 2009-2020 period as a reference, the precipitation deficit in Catalonia It reaches 31% in 2023, well above the 21% in 2022 and 15% in 2021, it must be clarified. This data will not be consistent with the official Meteocat data, causing the calculations to use a different number of sites and use a longer reference period.

By mid-November, reserves in the interior basin had fallen below the historic low of 1989. It should be remembered that existing resources such as desalination plants and recycled water did not exist at that time, indicating that the severity of this drought had no precedents.

In 2024, a great spell of rain began, nothing serious, but it left a good record in Ponant, with January being the rainiest month since last spring. But things improved in March, with some more widespread rain and snowfall. The icing on the cake was a spell of rain at the end of April which was a good blow to the drought, although as we are suffering from a serious water shortage There is still a lot to do and a lot of rain to come.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the current drought situation in Catalonia.


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