Spain’s Barcelona faces a drought ’emergency’ in September.

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Authorities in parched northeastern Spain warned on Tuesday that Barcelona and a vast region home to around 6 million people could face even tougher restrictions on water use in the coming months.

Samuel Reyes, head of the Catalan Water Authority, which manages water resources for the area around Barcelona and other smaller towns in north-eastern Spain, said the area will likely be declared a “drought emergency” by September unless forecasts of little rain prove wrong .

“If there is no rain in the spring and summer, the reservoirs will not be raised and we will enter a phase of emergency for the Llobregat river system sometime in September,” Reyes said.

The Ter-Llobregat river system is the main water supply for Barcelona, ​​Girona and other smaller towns and villages. The Spanish government said on Tuesday that its reservoirs, along with others in northern Catalonia, have shrunk to 27% of their capacity. Only the reservoirs linked to the Guadalquivir river basin in southern Andalucia are worse off, at 26% of their capacity.

Reyes said many of Catalonia’s rivers were at historic lows after a drought that broke all records for the region and forced authorities last year to start limiting water use for agriculture and industry. City halls have also been asked to stop filling public fountains and there are restrictions on other uses. Whether swimming pools should be filled in summer or not is currently openly discussed. Many cities say they are ideal “climate shelters”.

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In an extraordinary effort to save every drop of water, authorities have successfully moved about 13 cubic hectometres of water from Catalonia’s Sau reservoir in recent weeks. To ensure water quality and avoid massive fish kills, authorities killed 4,000 fish of invasive species. Reyes’ agency said Tuesday that process was complete.

Sau is now one of three reservoirs that Catalan firefighters say they can no longer use to reload water to fight wildfires. Most of Spain is bracing for a difficult wildfire season, with dry forests and high temperatures expected after a record hot 2022.

“Drought has become the main concern of this country,” said Patrícia Plaja, spokeswoman for the Catalan government.

Under current restrictions, cities in Catalonia are limited to 230 liters of water per person per day, including personal use as well as City Hall consumption per inhabitant for services such as street cleaning. Under the “emergency” phase of Catalonia’s drought plan, this would drop to 200 liters per day. The Water Authority says the average person uses about 116 liters a day for domestic use.

The Catalan government is proposing regional laws that would allow it to fine cities that use too much water.

Catalonia faced a severe drought in 2008 and used tankers to transport water to Barcelona. Reyes recently told The Associated Press that his agency would not recommend using this method again, nor would it support a possible diversion of water from the much larger Ebro river basin in southern Catalonia.

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