Barcelona to be put on drought 'pre-emergency' next week
New restrictions could include water cuts and pressure reduction
The Catalan government plans to declare a state of "pre-emergency" next week over the drought in the Ter-Llobregat supply system, which provides water to most of Catalonia, including the Barcelona metropolitan area.
Government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja said that Catalonia is experiencing the "worst" drought in its history and they are assessing the possibility of declaring a state of emergency soon, which was expected to be implemented at the end of the year.
The situation was already serious in September, but government officials were hopeful that it would rain in the fall, since it’s one of the wettest seasons of the year. However, there has not been enough rain, contributing to the rainfall deficit that Catalonia has accumulated since September 2021.
Samuel Reyes, director of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA), explained that it is the most "extreme" drought since records began in 1915. It’s considered severe for the duration (36 months), the intensity (very low rainfall), and the large area affected (a majority of Catalonia).
Patrícia Plaja and Samuel Reyes have called on citizens to adopt water-saving measures and asked local governments to take more action.
"It is a new situation, never seen before,” Reyes said. “Whether we are at home or when we go to the office, the gym or the library, we must use water efficiently."
The ACA director also highlighted the preventive work that the Catalan government has carried out in recent years, like investing 110 million euros to increase water availability.
New measures in Barcelona
The water operator Aigües Barcelona expects that, in the coming days, more municipalities will enter phase 1 of drought emergency, which would mean new restrictions, and Barcelona is likely to be part of it. To prepare for this new scenario, the company has been carrying out pressure reduction tests in Barcelona's network for the last two months.
In October, Reyes said that a water emergency was "inevitable" in the Barcelona metropolitan area before the end of the year. Barcelona and its neighboring cities are currently in a state of exception but could soon be in a state of emergency.
Barcelona has drastically reduced its reliance on reservoirs in the past few years. While in 2021, 85% of the water used in Barcelona and neighboring cities came from reservoirs, in 2023, that number went down to 50%, as a result of desalination and groundwater extraction.
However, stricter water restrictions are likely to be imposed when the city enters the emergency phase. Residents will be limited to 200 liters of water per day, which could be achieved through water cuts or pressure reductions.
State of exceptionality
The Catalan government declared a state of exceptionality on October 31 due to the drought in 23 municipalities, including the counties of Berguedà, Solsonès and Ripollès (north-central Catalonia) that depend on the headwaters of the Llobregat river.
The state of exceptionality is orange on the government's five-step traffic light scale, one step away from the most serious scenario: a state of emergency.
At the moment, two areas are in a normal situation, two are in alert, 11 in a state of exceptionality and three in a state of emergency.
The drought has also forced the closure of the Llanars hydroelectric plant in Ripollès, in the Pyrynees region, due to the lack of water in the Ter River. This is an exceptional situation. In fact, it had never happened since the company began keeping records in the 1990s;this year, it happened twice.