Floating desalination unit off Barcelona shore to avoid using water tanker ships

Catalonia to install a dozen mobile plants in Costa Brava amid ongoing drought

Barcelona port seen from Montjuïc hill
Barcelona port seen from Montjuïc hill / Blanca Blay
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

April 18, 2024 12:03 PM

April 18, 2024 04:16 PM

The Catalan government will install a floating desalination plant off the shore of the port of Barcelona and purchase 12 mobile desalination units for the northern region of the Costa Brava to combat the severe drought in the area.

The floating desalination plant in Barcelona will produce 14 hm3 of water per year, equivalent to 6% of the consumption of the Barcelona metropolitan area.

However, it will not be operational until Barcelona enters the next drought emergency phase, which is not expected until at least October.

Floating desalination unit location off the shore of the port of Barcelona
Floating desalination unit location off the shore of the port of Barcelona / Catalan government

With this measure, the Catalan government spokesperson has ruled out using water tanker ships to supply the city with water.

"Transporting water by ship from outside Catalonia is no longer an option as we now have more practical, efficient and better alternatives," Catalan government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja said.

Climate Action Minister David Mascort has emphasized that this measure is "more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable" than using ships.

"The amount of water we will obtain with [the floating desalination plant] is much higher, we could say more than double, compared to what we would get by bringing in water tanker ships, and it is also much cheaper," Mascort said.


The floating desalination plant produces about 40,000 m3 per day, while water tanker ships can only transport an average of 25,000 m3 per day.

On top of that, the desalination plant has no mooring costs and does not interfere with maritime traffic.

The Port of Barcelona is ready for the desalination plant, and the location and pipeline connection have already been determined.

The water produced will be stored in an intermediate reservoir, which will be operational by June, before being released into the distribution network.

12 mobile desalination units for Costa Brava

In the north of the Costa Brava coast, 12 small mobile desalination units will be installed, which from June will supply 1,000 m3 of water per day, covering 35% of the water consumption of more than a dozen municipalities.

The desalination units, which will cost €10 million, will mainly cover picturesque coastal towns that attract large numbers of tourists during the summer, such as Roses, Cadaqués and Llançà.

Other towns covered by the new desalinators are Castelló d'Empúries, Mancomunitat de Pau, Palau Saverdera, Vilajuïga, Garriguella, Pedret i Marzà, El Port de la Selva and Selva de Mar.

Locations of the 12 desalination units in the northern region of the Costa Brava in Roses and Castelló d'Empúries
Locations of the 12 desalination units in the northern region of the Costa Brava in Roses and Castelló d'Empúries / Catalan government

Local governments in the affected towns have welcomed the measure. Lluís Espada, the environmental councillor of Roses, said that their goal was to ensure "drinking water" while guaranteeing a "normal tourist season".

The mayor of Castelló, Anna Massot, said that this measure provides more "guarantees" to avoid water shortages.

Swimming pool decree "not designed for hotels" 

Another measure announced by the government this week was a change in drought regulations that would allow councils to designate certain swimming pools, both private and public, as climate refuges this summer. 

There has been some confusion and controversy around the measure, which the climate action minister attempted to clarify on Thursday. 

The decree "was not designed to open hotel swimming pools," David Mascort said.  

"It is designed to help councils open municipal swimming pools, and to give an outlet to those councils who don't have one, so they can use council facilities as climate shelters," he said. 

The minister accused mayors who criticized the decree of trying to score points ahead of the Catalan elections. 

Mascort reminded councils they will have to "justify" the reason for including pools in the list of climate shelters. 

The change to regulations was designed with inland municipalities in mind, so that they can open the municipal swimming pool as they do every year, to provide relief from the high summer temperatures of around 35°C. 

Catalonia faces unprecedented drought

Catalonia is facing its worst drought ever recorded since 1916, when the first data was collected. 

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

The new restrictions were 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.