Government to limit tourist water consumption due to ongoing drought

Private and public swimming pools can be refilled if designated climate shelters open to all 

Bathers at the Balàfia public swimming pool in Lleida
Bathers at the Balàfia public swimming pool in Lleida / Ignasi Gómez
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

April 16, 2024 12:56 PM

April 16, 2024 02:17 PM

The government has announced it will set a cap on water consumption per visitor at tourist accommodation, at an equivalent level to the consumption of residents living in Catalonia. 

The Catalan executive approved three significant changes to drought measures at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, also clarifying that private and public swimming pools can be refilled if they are designated climate shelters open to all. 

The third change announced to the Special Drought Plan is the introduction of a special regime to regulate the contributions of water resources made to the system by privately owned portable desalination units

As well as the three main changes announced, the government decree also makes changes to the sanctioning regime for municipalities that exceed water consumption, by changing the analysis period to every quarter and enabling fines to be paid in installments. 

The rains in March helped water reserves to rise (up 24.5 hm3 to 125 hm3, an increase of four percentage points to 18%), the government said, but a drought emergency remains for a large part of Catalonia's internal river basins, where the vast majority of the population live. 

The new drought measure will allow local councils and businesses new tools to help manage the scarces water available, according to government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja.

Swimming pools 

Up until now, swimming pools in areas where a state of emergency has been declared due to the drought could only be filled or refilled for use by a registered sports club or other specific circumstances, such as for therapeutic use. 

The Federation of Municipalities of Catalonia (FMC) and the Catalan Association of Municipalities (ACM) asked the government to ease measures after the recent rise in water level in reservoirs. 

The government has responded by modifying the Special Drought Plan so that more swimming pools can open over the summer. 

Local councils will be able to designate swimming pools as "climate shelters" in the current context of increasingly frequent and extreme heat waves. 

This applies to public pools, but also to privately owned pools that come to an agreement with the local council to open to the public under the same conditions as public swimming pools. 

Pools listed as climate shelters may be refilled as necessary to guarantee the sanitary quality of the water, as long as additional water saving measures are applied. 

The private pools could be, for example, communal pools in apartment blocks that open to other residents, or a hotel or campsite pool that can be accessed by paying an entrance fee. 

Private desalination units 

The second change to the Special Drought Plan sees a new special regime for privately owned mobile desalination units. 

Obtaining water through privately owned seawater desalination facilities constitutes an additional contribution – not publicly financed – which was not foreseen when the plan was drawn up, and which does not compromise the rest of the system's water resources. 

The government has already allowed hotels to fill their swimming pools with private desalination units, as requested by the hotel sector of tourist hotspot Lloret de Mar. These hotels will not be obliged to open their pools to the general public. 

Tourist water consumption cap 

The third change to the Special Drought plan sets water consumption thresholds for tourist accommodation, equivalent to domestic water consumption rates for residents in Catalonia. 

Until now, the plan only specified peak consumption allowances (200 liters per inhabitant per day on average in an emergency situation). This figure includes domestic consumption and other water use within a municipality, even losses from the supply network. 

With the new decree, the drought plan specifically introduces, for the first time, maximum consumption thresholds per person for tourist accommodation, equivalent to residents' consumption: 115 liters per person when a drought state of exceptionality applies; 100 liters per person in emergency phase I and 90 liters per person in emergency phase II. 

In municipalities where maximum allocations are exceeded for three consecutive months, consumption limitations will be mandatory for all tourist accommodation located there.