State of exceptionality declared in seven new areas due to drought
Water restrictions expanded while authorities triple resources for forest fire prevention
The Catalan government has announced water restrictions in seven new areas of the territory, expanding the state of exceptionality due to the ongoing drought to a total of 495 towns.
The drought has now been ongoing for 30 months in Catalonia and it has left water levels in reservoirs at critically low levels, which has knock-on effects for forest fire prevention. As such, authorities are also tripling resources dedicated to preventing wild fires.
Restrictions in the seven new zones will mean that water use for agriculture will be reduced by 40%, while industry and leisure will see 15% reductions.
A cap will be placed on personal use of 230 liters per person per day. Yet, authorities have previously pointed out that this figure is far higher than the average daily personal use of around 117 liters per day.
The seven new water zones, controlled by the Catalan government through the Catalan Water Agency, that are now coming under the state of exceptionality are Anoia-Gaià, Ter, the Darnius Boadella reservoir, Empordà, Llobregat Mitjà, Prades Llaberia, and the Serralada Transversal.
These zones include major towns such as Vic, Figueres, Berga, Santa Coloma de Farners, Moià, and Olot.
The restrictions will also mean that it will be prohibited to water both public and private green areas (although water will be allowed to keep trees alive with drops or sprinklers), and to clean streets with drinking water.
The director of the Catalan Water Agency, Samuel Reyes, said that the rain seen over the past days was "positive, but not enough," as they had little impact on the state of the reservoirs across the country.
Catalan authorities do not rule out declaring a water emergency later in the year.
Patrícia Plaja, the spokesperson for the Catalan government, pointed out that the rain in the past days was a "relief" for the state of forests, yet this is so far not enough to change the overall high risk of wildfires.
The dry state of vegetation due to the lack of rain means that potential forest fires would be able to spread faster, posing a higher threat.
In April alone, which saw record high temperatures in parts of the country for the month, there were six wildfires, an unusually high number for this time of year as most come in the summer.
The government will allocate €74 million over the next three years to prevent large forest fires, tripling the budget in this regard, with €20 million being spent this year.
"Climate change has shown us that fires no longer only happen in summer," Plaja said.