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Government declares a state of emergency as region faces the 'worst drought in modern history' — here's what you need to know

The government plans to ship about 10.5 million gallons of water a day from a desalination plant.

The government plans to ship about 10.5 million gallons of water a day from a desalination plant.

Photo Credit: iStock

While areas with extreme drought are suffering shortages of water all over the world,  northeastern Spain is experiencing its "worst drought in modern history," according to the Guardian. Catalonia's president said some areas of the autonomous region — home to Barcelona, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the European Union — haven't seen rain in over three years.

What's happening?

The Guardian reported that water reserve levels in Catalonia have fallen below 16%, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency. Water restrictions previously implemented in other parts of the region have now been extended to Barcelona.

A number of public amenities, including public pools and beach showers, have been shut down, and a 20% reduction in agricultural irrigation will be enforced. 

Water restrictions have been placed on the citizens of Barcelona, allowing each person to use 52 gallons a day. If the drought continues, Barcelona residents could be restricted to 47.5 gallons a day, and it would only go down from there, according to an article from Agence France-Press reposted by Phys.org.

Why is the drought concerning?

As if water reserves in Catalonia having reached below 16% capacity isn't bad enough, the fact that it got that bad so quickly makes it even worse. That's down more than 50% since November 2022, when reserves were at 35%, and some restrictions were already in place, per The Water Diplomat news service.

Even the rain that helped some southern European nations somewhat recover from drought in the summer of 2023 did next to nothing to relieve the effects of extended heatwaves and the overall lack of rainfall in Spain.

Barcelona is home to Europe's largest desalination plant, which supplies nearly a third of the city's drinking water, according to the Guardian. Unfortunately, it's expensive and consumes a lot of energy, some of which comes from dirty energy, which has been primarily linked to the overheating of our planet. That, in turn, has led to more severe and frequent weather events such as droughts. 

What's being done about the water shortage in Catalonia?

Reuters reported that Spain is going to spend over $500 million to build two new desalination plants, one north of Barcelona and one to the south, with the capacity to treat about 21 billion gallons of water a year. But the citizens of Barcelona will have to be patient. The new plants are expected to begin operating in 2028 and 2029.

The Spanish government also plans to ship about 10.5 million gallons of water a day from a desalination plant in the Valencia region.

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