Spain’s Drought

Via Smart Water Magazine, an article on Spain’s drought:

Drought is a recurrent natural phenomenon in various regions of the world, and Spain is no exception. Throughout its history, this country has experienced cycles of water scarcity that have impacted multiple aspects of society, the economy and the environment. In Spain, drought cycles usually occur every 8 to 10 years, although they are expected to be more frequent and intense in the future due to the effects of climate change. 

The news about drought in Spain has been common throughout this summer. Las week the water reserves in the country’s reservoirs fell below 40% of total capacity, to 39.9%, after a decrease of 1.2% in one week, according to weekly data from the hydrology bulletin of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO).

Almost nine million people in 600 municipalities are currently suffering water restrictions due to drought. Currently, the regions where the problem is most pressing are Catalonia and Andalusia. In Catalonia, the regional government has declared a state of emergency due to hydrological drought in parts of Girona – 22 municipalities that are supplied by the Fluvià Muga aquifer – and Tarragona – 2 municipalities that depend on water from the Riudecanyes reservoir. It stipulates an average consumption of 200 litres per person per day, irrigation is only authorised for the survival needs of woody crops, and a 25% reduction in industrial consumption is required. In the Andalusian province of Malaga, several municipalities have intensified the restrictions due to the drought, including interruptions in the domestic water supply, especially at night; and some ten municipalities in the Sierra de Huelva, also in Andalusia, are also suffering nighttime water cuts.

It is necessary to adapt water resources planning and management to ensure the best possible use of available resources

Climate change has been a significant catalyst for drought in Spain. Weather patterns are changing, leading to increased temperatures and altered precipitation cycles. Rainy seasons are shorter and more unpredictable, and when rain finally falls, it often comes in the form of brief, torrential downpours, making it difficult to recharge aquifers and retain water in the soil. This contributes directly to the reduction of available water resources in reservoirs and rivers, with serious consequences for agriculture, industry and the drinking water supply.

Faced with this reality, it is necessary to adapt water resourcesplanning and management to ensure the best possible use of available resources, in addition to taking advantage of the possibilities offered by non-conventional resources such as desalination and water reuse. In this context, last May MITECO announced 1.4 billion euros to tackle the drought and increase water availability. The actions planned include accelerating the construction of new infrastructure such as desalination plants, doubling the amount of urban water reused, and support for farmers who experience a reduction in their water allocations for irrigation purposes.

As the largest water user -with 80% of the demand- agriculture, Spain’s economic pillar, is the sector most impacted by drought. Lack of water limits irrigation capacity, resulting in reduced agricultural yields. The irrigation sector is in the spotlight during periods of droughtHistoric investments of 2.1 billion euros are planned by 2027 for the modernization of 750,000 ha in order to reduce water consumption by at least 10%. Water reuse, the use of renewable technologies and digitalisation will be key instruments for a sector that needs to achieve sustainability in terms of both water and energy consumption, and thus contribute to meeting the challenges of the future. In this regard, companies such as ACCIONA, committed to the advancement of irrigation through its Water for Agriculture division, provide solutions to improve the efficiency and sustainability of irrigation, leading the use of non-conventional resources such as desalination and reuse, management of water users associations, and the digitalisation of the irrigation sector.

The industrial sector also faces challenges due to drought. Many industries rely on large amounts of water for their production processes. Decreases in water supply can negatively impact their efficiency and profitability. Moreover, when water resources decline, there is often a deterioration in water quality because there is less water to dilute contaminants. Ensuring adequate supply is critical: a mobile system is a perfect solution to guarantee business continuity and avoid costly downtime in unforeseen situations. In this regard, NSI Mobile Water Solutions’ mobile technologies for process water and for wastewater reclamation and reuse applications make it possible to supply additional volumes and to pre-treat water whose quality changes over time.

In addition to impacts on the economy, drought has a detrimental effect on aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity. Reduced water levels in rivers and lakes threaten aquatic species and natural habitats. Fragile ecosystems such as wetlands become more susceptible to degradation and loss of biodiversity, which in turn can affect food chains and the ecosystem services they provide. Santa Olalla, the largest permanent lagoon in Doñana National Park in southern Spain, has dried up for the second consecutive summer, something that has not happened since the Doñana Biological Station has records. The deterioration of the Doñana lagoon system is related to low precipitations, as well as to the overexploitation of the aquifer that feeds the lagoons.

To address drought challenges, sustainable management of water resources is key. This includes investing in water storage and distribution infrastructure, promoting water-efficient agricultural practices, adopting water reuse technologies, and raising public awareness of the importance of conserving this vital resource. In addition, it is necessary to promote climate adaptation policies and encourage research into advanced water resource management techniques.

To address drought challenges, sustainable management of water resources and climate adaptation policies are key

In Spain, MITECO monitors the situation of prolonged drought, which is related to meteorological drought due to lack of precipitation, and also of water scarcity or hydrological drought, related to meeting water demands. River basin districts have drought plans in place, last revised in 2018, and currently undergoing review and update; they are a key management tool to minimize the social, economic and environmental impacts derived from drought and water scarcity situations. Urban drinking water systems (managed by local governments, consortia, etc.) that serve populations of more than 20,000 people must have an Emergency Plan for drought situations, coordinated with the overarching drought plans of river basin districts, which at least establishes the alert thresholds and defines the measures to be adopted in each case. In this regard, Gestagua advocates the use of digital tools and knowledge of the environmental conditions to ensure the preservation of water resources. Its management model sets a target of 90% performance for all its services, with improved network efficiency and a reduction in non-revenue water.

In conclusion, drought in Spain is a complex and persistent challenge that affects multiple aspects of society and the environment. To ensure a sustainable future, measures that promote the conservation and efficient use of water, as well as adaptation to climate change, are essential. Only through collaboration between governments, economic sectors and society as a whole can drought challenges be met to ensure an adequate water supply for present and future generations.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 28th, 2023 at 8:28 pm and is filed under Spain.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

Comments are closed.

© 2024 Water Politics LLC .  'Water Politics', 'Water. Politics. Life', and 'Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty World' are service marks of Water Politics LLC.