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Catalonia limits water use as Spain prays for rain after hot dry summer

People walk arround the remains of the church of Sant Roma de Sau as it emerges from the low waters of the Sau Reservoir, north of Barcelona, Spain.
People walk arround the remains of the church of Sant Roma de Sau as it emerges from the low waters of the Sau Reservoir, north of Barcelona, Spain.   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Albert Gea
By Euronews  with AP

Barcelona and large swathes of Spain’s northeast are going under water restrictions as a months-long drought that has devastated crops starts to put the pinch on human activities in the Mediterranean country.

The measures will affect 6.7 million people - 80 per cent of the population in the Catalonia region - Patrícia Plaja, spokesperson for the Catalan administration, said on Tuesday. 

Plaja added that, for now, it will not be necessary to limit the use of water inside homes for washing, cooking or drinking, but her government urged citizens to “be aware of the exceptional situation the country is facing.”

What are Catalonia's water restrictions?

The measures, which take effect on Friday will include reductions in water for the irrigation of crops and industry. City dwellers won't be permitted to use drinking water to wash the exterior of houses or cars or to fill swimming pools. 

Over 500 town halls, including Barcelona, must stop filling public fountains or cleaning streets with drinking water.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
An 11th century Romanesque church partially exposed in a reservoir in Vilanova de Sau, Catalonia, Spain, on 20 June 2022, and the same spot on 18 November.AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Below average rainfall that experts have linked to global climate change has shrunk reservoirs, damaging agriculture and the environment across Spain.

Barcelona now becomes the second major city in Spain to limit water use after Seville did so with similar measures in September following an extremely dry, hot summer.

Catalonia will suffer 'longer and more frequent' droughts

While reservoirs in Spain’s south near Seville are now the driest, Catalonia’s water reservoirs are down to 34 per cent of capacity, according to Spain's ministry for the ecological transition.

In 2008, a prolonged drought forced Spanish authorities to bring in water to Barcelona via boat to guarantee domestic use. That led to the construction of a desalination plant near Barcelona that local authorities say is the largest in Europe with a capacity to produce 60 million litres in a year. They add that it is now running at 90 per cent capacity.

The climate context (means) that Catalonia will suffer longer and more frequent droughts.
Patrícia Plaja
Spokesperson for the Catalan administration

Plaja said even if rains eventually provide some relief, “the climate context (means) that Catalonia will suffer longer and more frequent droughts” like other areas of Spain and the wider region.

Climate scientists have identified the Mediterranean as one of the world's regions that will suffer the most from increasing temperatures due to climate change.