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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Drought and Some Patchwork Solutions
Monday, February 5, 2024 @ 6:16 PM

 It’s not looking very good in Catalonia with the water issue at the moment.

The BBC says ‘A state of emergency is declared as the region faces worst ever drought’. The fact is that the reservoirs are all but empty and there’s what the British would call a hosepipe-ban come into effect in 102 municipalities affecting six million residents including the people of the city of Barcelona.

While the Generalitat has concentrated on draconian reductions for agriculture, ranchers and industry (-80, -50 and -25% cuts), the subject of tourism has been left in the hands of the town halls. A headline on Sunday says that some of these local authorities are insisting on sea-water filled swimming-pools and no plugs to be provided in hotel baths.

We learn that tourists apparently like to use more water than residents.

Not enough rain (or snow-melt) is the culprit. But the effect is a drought – in the tail-end of winter.

One plan is to bring water up from Sagunto (Valencia) to the Catalonian capital by sea.

It’s been a warm and dry few months in Spain, with other areas equally worried about water shortage – particularly Andalucía.

All right, they aren’t cutting the water to the golf-courses on the Costa del Sol (at least, not yet), but the larger plan there ‘will focus on using disused wells and boreholes, more desalination projects to make seawater usable and pushing local councils into fixing existing leaks in their water supply networks’.

In both regions – the fear is more that the tourist-industry will suffer than any apparent concern for the residents – as the availability of agricultural water is reduced and water-cuts are programmed for Seville, Córdoba and Málaga.

Andalucía is also looking at cistern-ships, maybe hauling water ‘from Portugal or even Asia’. Didn’t some place in Malaga bring a petite ice-burg down from Greenland last year?

A useful list of household water-economies includes showering rather than taking a bath – but the most effective break on domestic water-use would no doubt be the local water company putting up its prices.

Judging by the last few years of steadily increasing temperatures, the tourist bonanza may begin to falter, particularly in the south – although, here’s Sur in English: ‘Reassurance for Malaga and Costa del Sol tourism sectors following Andalucía's fresh drought decree. The regional government is to spend a further 217 million euros on measures to shore up water supply as the much-needed rain still fails to arrive’.

One answer is to build new desalination plants, but they are expensive and, as Greenpeace says, "This technology is essential to alleviate a period of extreme drought, like the one we are suffering now, but they are the last option". In Spain, there are currently an astonishing 770 of them – mostly used for domestic consumption. 

Thus, we prepare for the summer season - with another 85 million or so international tourists joining us for a drink, a swim and a shower. 

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