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‘We have never seen it so low’: Spain introduces water restrictions as reservoirs run dry

Boadella reservoir is at 20% of its capacity as Spain braces for the third heatwave of the summer.
Boadella reservoir is at 20% of its capacity as Spain braces for the third heatwave of the summer. Copyright REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Copyright REUTERS/Nacho Doce
By Euronews Green with Reuters
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A drought emergency has been declared in some parts of Catalonia where people are being urged to reduce their water consumption.

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Catalonia declared a drought emergency in 24 municipalities last week following a lack of rainfall over the last 30 months. 

Reservoir levels are low and water restrictions have been imposed because of the drought.  

The Darnius Boadella reservoir in north eastern Spain is just 20 per cent full. 

Artur Duran holds his hand out by his waist to show the level of water he remembers two years ago. Then, it was still deep enough for sailing. Now a long drought has nearly emptied it.

"We have never seen (it) so low," the 79-year-old local resident told Reuters at the reservoir.

Drought is leaving reservoirs empty

People sunbathed on the reservoir's newly-exposed shore, where a few specks of grass have cropped up. Some visitors tried to paddle-surf.

Catalonia's authorities last week imposed new water usage restrictions on 22 villages around the reservoir, near the French border, as the aquifer supplying them is also emptying.

REUTERS/Nacho Doce
A tourist from France walks with his paddle board on Boadella reservoir.REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Spain registered the driest start to a year in the first four months of 2023 since records began in the 1960s, with Catalonia and southern Spain's Andalusia being the most affected.

Several heatwaves recorded in Spain and wider Europe this summer have worsened the drought, lowering reservoirs' levels as water evaporation and consumption increased, said Ruben del Campo, spokesperson for Spain's meteorological agency AEMET.

Catalonia declares a drought emergency in dozens of villages

The 22 villages, plus two others in southern Catalonia, which account for around 25,000 residents in total, are in a state of water emergency.

This means they must lower their consumption to a daily average of 200 litres of water per resident from a prior cap of 230. 

Authorities are not limiting water for human consumption yet, but watering for agricultural purposes will be largely banned, and water use for industrial and recreational purposes has to drop by 25 per cent.

NACHO DOCE/REUTERS
Residents sit on the bank of Boadella reservoir.NACHO DOCE/REUTERS

The village of Agullana with 900 residents has been keeping its water usage below the 200-litre cap for several months, but its mayor said further steps will be implemented.

"We'll reduce to zero the irrigation of gardens, the football field, the grass by the swimming pool, which we'll see turning yellow as if burnt," Josep Jovell said. 

No water will be used to clean the streets, only dry sweeping, he added.

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