Barcelona gets tough on water rules: 24,000 residents told to use less water amid drought emergency

Letters will warn people who are consuming excessive amounts of water.
Letters will warn people who are consuming excessive amounts of water. Copyright Pexels
By Rosie Frost
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The letters will warn people they could face fines if they are found filling private swimming pools, watering gardens and washing cars.

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Authorities in Barcelona are sending 24,000 warning letters to residents who “consume excessive amounts of water”.

These households - around 1.5 per cent of the total for the metropolitan area - have exceeded the limit of 200 litres per person per day set as part of the city’s drought emergency.

They will also be reminded of activities that are currently banned, like filling private swimming pools, watering gardens and washing cars.

The letters will warn residents about the fines they could face if authorities find they are breaking the rules.

Around 250 more letters will be sent to “large consumers” like industrial operations or large properties that are using more water than is allowed. These letters will request details of their current and future water-saving plans.

How is Barcelona reducing water consumption?

The Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) is trying to reduce water use in its 36 municipalities after a drought emergency was declared on 1 February. It says this is the “longest and most severe drought in the metropolitan area since records began”.

Seven municipalities in the Metropolitan area - Begues, Cervelló, Corbera de Llobregat, La Palma de Cervelló, Sant Just Desvern, Sant Vicenç dels Horts and Tiana - will have water pressure reduced from 11 March.

An abandoned kayak lies on the cracked ground at the Sau reservoir north of Barcelona.
An abandoned kayak lies on the cracked ground at the Sau reservoir north of Barcelona.AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

These municipalities have on average been exceeding the limit of 200 litres of water per person per day.

If the drought continues, AMB plans to gradually extend this reduction in water pressure to other municipalities, starting with those that use the most water.

Reclaimed and desalinated water are boosting supplies

In tandem with efforts to reduce consumption, local authorities are also trying to increase the amount of water supplies available to delay stricter restrictions. Reclaimed water - purified and treated wastewater - is a big part of this strategy.

A worker walks over the pipeline that transports seawater to filters at Europe's largest desalination plant for drinking water in Barcelona.
A worker walks over the pipeline that transports seawater to filters at Europe's largest desalination plant for drinking water in Barcelona.AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Currently, a quarter of the water consumed by the Barcelona metropolitan area’s 3.3 million inhabitants is reclaimed. A further 33 per cent comes from desalination - another major focus for increasing supplies - with these two measures accounting for up to 58 per cent of all the water consumed in the area.

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