For months, residents of L’Espluga de Francoli have been saving bottled water and pre-showers to deal with the many hours of daily water rationing as northeastern Spain suffers its worst drought in decades.
While this small Catalan city has suffered from supply problems for years due to the depleted state of its groundwater, the current drought has made matters worse.
Every night between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am, the local water supply is cut off in this city of 3,600, located 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Barcelona.
“We keep water in bottles so we can brush our teeth and wash our faces in the morning,” said Maria Gonzalez, a 24-year-old nursing assistant.
“At night, we either take a shower at work or in the gym or heat the water in basins (to wash at home), like in the good old days,” she said.
Three times a week, a tanker truck spends hours hauling water to top up the municipal water supply in Lespluga in an area where aquifers have been depleted by months of drought.
“Climate change … has come very quickly over the past two or three years,” says Xavier Roussel, who is in charge of environmental issues and municipal services in the region.
Reservoir rescue operation
The effects appeared across Spain’s rich northeast region of 7.7 million people after 32 months of drought reduced its reservoir capacity.
Regional figures showed that a lack of rainfall – which was particularly bad in Barcelona where there are restrictions – left reservoirs at just 26 percent of capacity.
“At this point, it’s the worst problem we have,” Catalan leader Pere Aragones said, lamenting one of the “worst droughts in 50 years.”
Last summer, lowering water levels in the Sau reservoir revealed the ruins of an 11th-century church in the normally submerged village of Sant Roma de Sau, which was flooded in the 1960s when a dam was built nearby.
With levels so low in Sao, authorities last month began an emergency transfer of their remaining reserves to a nearby reservoir to maintain water quality.
It’s not the region’s first severe water shortage – the last was between 2004 and 2008 – but such episodes are getting more intense.
“The droughts caused by climate change are getting worse,” said Narcisse Prat, emeritus professor of environment at the University of Barcelona, pointing to rising temperatures leading to more evaporation of water.
Although the drought was particularly severe in Catalonia, it affected the entire country.
“We are facing a difficult moment in terms of both water resources and rainfall,” Agriculture Minister Luis Planas said after the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
hotter and drier
UN figures show Europe is warming faster than any other continent, and deep in the southwest, Spain is particularly vulnerable with the National Meteorological Office AEMET declaring 2022 the hottest year on record.
The numbers are very worrying. In the current “water year” — a 12-month period starting in October when hydrologists track precipitation levels — Spain has averaged 21 percent less rain than normal.
Environment Ministry figures on Tuesday showed that the south was hit hard, with reservoirs in the Guadalquivir Basin with a capacity of 25.2 percent, compared to the national average of 50.7 percent.
In March, Catalonia declared a second-degree state of emergency in its most populous region, imposing bans on the use of water cannons and limits on the use of water for agricultural or industrial purposes.
They have also increased investment in water treatment plants, filtration systems and desalination facilities that are already operating at maximum tilt.
“The Mediterranean region has been hit particularly hard, so it needs to find other ways to manage water,” Pratt said.
“This means that we will need to change our current model of holding water in reservoirs for one that includes other resources…such as desalination plants or wastewater replenishment facilities.”
© 2023 AFP
the quote: Water rationing in Catalonia as drought intensifies (2023, 19 April) Retrieved 19 April 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-rationed-catalonia-dvav-deeper.html
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