Catalan government allows use of private desalination plants amid drought emergency

Tourism, industrial and agricultural businesses will benefit from measures to ensure economic viability

Swimming pool in a hotel in Sitges
Swimming pool in a hotel in Sitges / Gemma Sánchez Bonel
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

March 7, 2024 12:15 PM

March 7, 2024 04:52 PM

The Catalan government's drought commission has authorized the use of water from privately owned desalination plants as long as it is to maintain the economic viability of businesses.

The measure will mainly affect companies from the tourism sector, as well as industry or agriculture and livestock, which have seen severe restrictions in the drought emergency.  

The companies that need to consume more water than allowed and want to do so through the use of private desalination plants will have to justify their need and ask for permission from the Catalan Water Agency (ACA).

Petitions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and approval will only be granted if it is necessary for the company's viability. The government also warned that under no circumstances will private pools be allowed to be filled.

Catalan government spokesperson Patricia Plaja stressed that the drought is "extreme" and that "far from improving, it is getting worse every day". She said the government is working to ensure that the impact on the economy is "minimal". 

"[The measure] has a clear and specific objective: to maintain economic activity and jobs," she added.

Although the government said no formal petitions have been received, it has admitted that the initiative by Lloret de Mar hotel owners is on the table.

Last month, the tourism sector in this destination of Catalonia's Costa Brava, banded together to purchase a mobile desalination plant to fill swimming pools and ensure drinking water is available during the summer season.

The desalination plant, which will be paid for by the hotels, campsites and apartment owners who will benefit from it, will cost €1.5 million and will be operational in May.

It will have a capacity of 50 cubic meters of water per hour and will be located on one side of Platja Gran beach. It will not draw water directly from the sea, but from a natural well in the sand.

12 municipalities enter Stage 2 emergency

Catalonia is experiencing the worst drought in its history, and most of the region was declared to be in a state of emergency on February 1.

Today, for the first time, 12 municipalities in the region of Girona were placed under emergency level 2, the most severe level. The entire affected area is supplied with water from the Darnius-Boadella reservoir, which is now at 11% of its capacity.

People in areas under level 2 will see their daily consumption reduced from 200 to 180 liters. The use of water for irrigation of gardens and green areas, both public and private, is prohibited, except for the survival of trees if done with recycled water or groundwater.

Showers in sports facilities will be completely prohibited, although recycled water or groundwater may be used to irrigate sports fields.

If the drought situation in the Darnius Boadella reservoir worsens, the Drought Emergency Plan will call for a third phase of even stricter measures.