The worst drought of this century activates the restrictions in eight autonomies

Level this Wednesday of the Vadiello reservoir, Huesca's main source of water supply. / EFE

The rate of emptying of the swamps is terrifying, with the loss in one week of the equivalent of the water that households consume in four months

Alfonso Torres

Bathers unable to rinse off the sand and salt at the exit of the beach, empty swimming pools, taps without water at night, fields and greenhouses with rationed irrigation, trucks and tankers carrying drinking water to some towns. It had been years since residents of many parts of the peninsula had spent an August subjected to water restrictions, limitations that, for now, are moderate, but that, in view of the very bad evolution of some squalid swamps, experts and politicians no longer They rule out that they should harden and even reach the autumn.

What is certain is that Spain is suffering the greatest drought of the century. The reservoirs are well below half, at 40%, with storage volumes so poor that something similar has not been seen for 27 August. It is an alarming level. Specifically, they accumulate a third less water than the average for the last decade for the same dates. In addition, as almost always happens with the statistical averages, they are misleading, because they compensate northern swamps at 70% or 80% of their capacity with those of the basins of the southern half, Guadiana, Guadalquivir or Guadalete, with between 25% and the 28th%.

As with the plague of forest fires that devastates Spain, we are facing another environmental tragedy derived from climate change and its most perverse phenomenon, global warming. This hydrological year, of which ten months have already passed, will be at least the third with the lowest volume of rainfall this century and, at the same time, one of the two or three warmest. The swamps have clearly suffered from a hot and very dry winter, with 25% less rain than the average for previous years. The proof is that in May the Spanish reservoirs ended the month at half their capacity.

However, what was already a clear drought can reach extreme levels. The Spanish hydrological summer is being shaken by the perfect storm. The summer rains are conspicuous by their absence. Between May and July the average drop in rainfall is 46%, a drop that reaches 70% if only July is taken into account. At the same time, the rate of evaporation of the water from the reservoirs is vertiginous due to the abnormal chaining of heat waves. If both climatic anomalies are joined by a huge pull in consumption, due to the proliferation of swimming pools and the largest tourist campaign in three seasons, all the ingredients for disaster are present.

First night cuts

The result is plummeting water reserves. The volume stored in the swamps fell by 832 cubic hectometres in the last week. Is it a lot or a little? It is enormous. This is the amount of water equivalent to that consumed by all Spanish households in four and a half months.

Towns and cities of eight autonomous communities have had to restrict water to slow down the rate of decline in reserves and remove, if possible completely, the need to implement lasting cuts in domestic consumption.

Half have chosen to suppress recreational and dispensable consumption. On the Pontevedra coast, the Biscayan region bathed by the Gernika estuary, in Cantabrian coastal towns such as Laredo, in the Extremadura area of ​​Tentudía or in the capital of Malaga itself, showers and footbaths have been cut off from the beaches and it is prohibited to fill swimming pools, wash down streets, wash cars or water gardens.

The first domestic restrictions have also been issued. There are nightly water cuts of varying intensity in 14 villages in the Sierra de Huelva, part of the Sierra de Segura (Jaén), the Cordovan municipality of La Carlota and in villages in the Navarrese Pyrenees. In 150 towns in Catalonia, with some 350,000 residents, they have put a limit on domestic consumption of 200 liters per person per day. More than enough for the average needs of a Spaniard (133 liters), but a red line to rule out excesses. The authorities warn that if it does not rain this limitation will reach the Barcelona metropolitan area in September.

The field sacrifices the irrigation of plantations in areas as disparate as Andalusia, Castilla y León, Badajoz or Navarra in order to save others. Farmers advance an autumn with smaller harvests that will make food and smaller fruits even more expensive due to the scarcity of water during the fattening stage.

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