Hottest month of April on record in Spain with 'exceptionally dry conditions'

EU Copernicus observatory says last month was fourth-warmest globally

A walnut farm near Mollerussa that is irrigated by the Canal d'Urgell
A walnut farm near Mollerussa that is irrigated by the Canal d'Urgell / Oriol Bosch
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

May 8, 2023 12:58 PM

May 8, 2023 07:31 PM

Last month was the hottest April on record in Spain, according to figures made public by the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service on Monday.

"April saw exceptionally warm temperatures in Spain and Portugal, which were accompanied by extremely dry conditions," said Samantha Burgess, the deputy director of the organization.

This trend was also seen in other parts of the world – last month was the fourth-warmest April globally – and yet there were also colder than average temperatures in the United Kingdom and the European southeast.


Catalan drought law

The Catalan parliament approved a new drought law only last week that lays the groundwork for how drinking water can be guaranteed and a sanctions regime for local councils that do not comply with water restrictions. 

Councils may be fined if they use more water than they should. Around 25% of the municipalities currently consume more water than the restrictions set, representing less than 10% of the population. 

Several other lines of funds fall under the new law, such as €50 million from the budgets for municipal bodies to make investments, and €50 million to improve facilities in water treatment plants and reservoirs.

The drought has now been ongoing for 30 months in Catalonia and it has left water levels in reservoirs at critically low levels, which has knock-on effects on forest fire prevention. 

State of exceptionality

The Catalan government announced a state of exceptionality last week due to the ongoing drought in a total of 495 towns. 

Restrictions in the zones deemed to be in a state of exceptionality, which currently covers most of Catalonia, will mean that water use for agriculture will be reduced by 40%, while industry and leisure will see 15% reductions.

A cap will be placed on personal use of 230 liters per person per day. Yet, authorities have previously pointed out that this figure is far higher than the average daily personal use of around 117 liters per day.  

Farmers' protest 

Catalonia's Farmers' Union (Unió de Pagesos) has called two tractor rallies on May 9 and 16 to demand an urgent response from Spain over the ongoing drought that is gravely affecting the farming industry. 

The union is critical of the "uncertainty" over the extent of the lack of water and is calling on the Spanish government to clarify the current situation and take measures so that the agricultural sector can move forward. 

As well as transparency, the union is also asking the government to assume responsibility for what they say is the "mismanagement of water" from the Ebre Hydrographic Confederation (CHE).  

The union claims that hydroelectric plants have been allowed to drain reservoirs in order to generate electricity. 

The first protest will take place on Tuesday, May 9 and in Lleida, Tarragona, Girona and Vic. 

On May 16, tractors will depart from several points in Catalonia and end in Zaragoza, Aragon, outside the headquarters of the Ebre Hydrographic Confederation. 

Reservoirs at 25% capacity

After months without significant rainfall, reservoirs managed by the Catalan government are at 25% capacity as of May 8, 2023, according to the Catalan Water Agency.

Learn more about the issue by listening to the Filling the Sink podcast episode from September 2022.