Catalonia declares drought emergency: what restrictions will be imposed?

Millions in Barcelona and its metropolitan area will see water restrictions tightened 

La Séquia, without water due to the drought
La Séquia, without water due to the drought / Nia Escolà
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

February 1, 2024 12:11 PM

February 2, 2024 10:19 AM

The Catalan government on Thursday officially declared a drought emergency in the Ter-Llobregat system, which supplies water to 6 million people.

The new restrictions will be implemented in 202 municipalities, including Barcelona and its metropolitan area, where most people live. 

The red alert means increased water restrictions in various sectors, including agriculture, industry, urban and recreational activities.

What restrictions will be imposed? 

The first step toward reducing water consumption is to lower the maximum amount of water allowed per person per day to 200 liters, 10 liters less than before. 

Another key measure involves significant restrictions on agriculture, with an 80% reduction in irrigation. In addition, water use for livestock will be cut in half. Water use for industrial and urban purposes will also be reduced by 25%.

Water use for recreational activities will be prohibited, with some exceptions. Irrigation of public or private gardens will be allowed only if groundwater or recycled water is used to ensure that urban trees remain in good condition for pedestrian safety.

Similarly, sports facilities can irrigate their fields with recycled water, but must take compensatory measures such as closing showers.

Indoor and public pools, as well as outdoor pools used year-round for sport clubs, may be partially replenished if the water used is offset by water conservation measures.

'Collective effort is key to overcoming drought'

Announcing the new restrictions, Catalan President Pere Aragonès emphasized that in the last three years "it hasn't rained as much as the country needs" and that "there has never been such an intense drought" in Catalonia since records began.


In a joint press conference with David Mascort, the Catalan Minister for Climate Action, Aragonès thanked the industrial and agricultural sectors, local councils and citizens for their efforts during the drought.

"I am convinced that with collaboration, anticipation, and a great collective effort, we will overcome the drought," he added.

Cruise ships to stop loading water at Barcelona port

Cruise ships belonging to the International Cruise Lines Association (CLIA), which account for 90% of the ships calling at the Port of Barcelona, will not load water there during the drought emergency.

In a joint statement, the association and the port said cruise operators have made significant investments in recent years to reduce water consumption and increase reuse through evaporators and reverse osmosis systems. 

The industry claims that ships can produce more than 90% of the fresh water they need. Therefore, ships will only be able to get water from the port of Barcelona in emergencies.

€110 million in agricultural insurance payouts

The agricultural insurance compensation for farmers in Catalonia reached €110 million in 2023.  

According to Agroseguro, the affected area approaches nearly 178,000 hectares, with extensive herbaceous crops such as cereals receiving the highest compensation, exceeding €54 million.  

In this case, the main damage assessed by the company's technicians is attributed to the water shortage caused by the drought.

These figures make 2023 the second-highest year for agricultural insurance compensation in Catalonia. In 2022, the compensation reached €138 million due to severe frost in April.

Listen to this episode of our podcast, Filling the Sink, to learn more about the ongoing drought in Catalonia.