Drought emergency will mean ban on refilling hotel, spa and private swimming pools

Showers in gyms and sports facilities will be prohibited in phase three of the emergency

A swimmer readies himself to enter the water
A swimmer readies himself to enter the water / Aleix Freixas
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

January 16, 2024 02:06 PM

January 16, 2024 07:35 PM

There will be a ban on refilling private swimming pools, as well as pools in hotels and spas, within a matter of weeks in Barcelona and much of Catalonia, once the Catalan government declares an emergency in the Ter-Llobregat system.

Most of the area is currently in the pre-emergency phase as a result of the ongoing drought and low water levels in reservoirs.

Refilling swimming pools in sports centers and clubs will be allowed with some restrictions. 

The measure is one of the modifications to the Special Drought Plan that the Catalan government approved on Tuesday. 


Catalonia's Minister for Climate Action, David Mascort, pointed out that "the Special Drought Plan approved in 2020 included a ban on filling swimming pools, all of them."

"What we're doing now is introducing an exception for sport," he explained. 

The executive also agreed to reduce environmental flows along the Llobregat, Ter and Muga rivers, and to postpone any new farms and hotels. 

In phase three of the emergency, the most restrictive, gyms and sports clubs will have to close their showers

Changes to Special Drought Plan 

Catalan climate action minister, David Mascort, had already announced in December that the government would modify some restrictions in the Special Drought Plan regarding the emergency phase and that it would also add more restrictions, such as the moratorium on new farming, industrial or tourism ventures that make intensive use of water, including farms, hotels and campsites. 

All of the measures approved on Tuesday will come into force once an emergency is declared in the Ter-Llobregat system. 

The Special Drought Plan then envisages three levels of emergency, depending on water reserves. The modifications approved by the government affect restrictions in emergency phase one and two. The measures for phase three, the most restrictive, remain unchanged. 

End of January or beginning of February 

The declaration of an emergency now looks likely to happen at the end of January or beginning of February. The climate action minister noted that while there was a steep decline water reserves in November of one percentage point every two weeks, the rate of decline has now slowed significantly, "thanks to the efforts of everyone." 

The current level of the reservoirs is 16.2%, with an emergency to be declared when they reach 16%. 

Swimming pools  

In emergency phase one, indoor swimming pools included on the government's list of sports facilities can be refilled as long as water consumption is reduced elsewhere on site. 

As water evaporates more easily from outdoor pools, they can only remain open if showers at sports facilities are closed to compensate. 

Other swimming pools not run by sports clubs, including private pools, shared pools in apartment blocks, or pools in hotels and spas, cannot be refilled either in whole or in part in emergency phase one. 

In emergency phase two, if a sports center wants to refill its indoor pool, they will have to close their showers

The government has eased the restrictions on watering sports pitches during phase one and two. Irrigation will be allowed at sports clubs but only with regenerated water or ground water, which does not compete with domestic supply. 

Furthermore, in phase one, other saving measures must be used at facilities to compensate for water used to irrigate pitches, while in phase two, showers must be closed. 

Phase three of the emergency will affect all gyms and sports clubs, whether or not they have a grass pitches or swimming pools. 

In this stage, the most restrictive, all sports facilities will be banned from watering grass and filling or refilling swimming pools, and showers will be closed.  


The government will maintain some exceptions for health and social care purposes. Pools intended for therapeutic use in hospitals, care homes, social education centers or for social care services, as well as pools to be used by people who have been diagnosed with a behavioral disorder, can all be refilled. 

Seawater pools not connected to the water supply can also be filled. 

Trees, beach showers, ice rinks, consumption cap 

The government has eased the restrictions on watering trees in phases one and two. Watering of public trees will be allowed with regenerated water or ground water, in order to avoid trees falling or dying as they want to preserve them for their cooling effect in summer. 

Beach showers will be banned during the emergency phase, as will ice rinks and foam parties. 

As well as the measures modified by the government on Tuesday, there are several other water saving measures in the Special Drought Plan to be applied during an emergency scenario, including a cap on consumption of 200 liters per person per day, dropping to 160 liters in the event of an extreme emergency.