Rainfall allows Spain’s Catalonia to ease water restrictions for 1st time during drought

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s Catalonia region will ease restrictions on water use for a wide area including Barcelona after recent rainfall palliated a prolonged drought, regional authorities said Tuesday.

Catalonia declared a drought emergency in February when its reservoirs fell under 16% capacity after nearly three years of below-average rainfall. But steady rain in recent weeks has boosted reserves to nearly 25%. Spain’s reservoirs overall are at 66% full.

The loosened restrictions mean that some 6 million people will now see individual use limits increased from 200 to 230 liters per day (53 to 61 gallons). Catalonia’s water agency says the average resident uses 116 liters (30 gallons) per day at home.

Famers will only have to reduce their average uses by 40%, instead of 80%, while industrial users will only have to save 15% compared to 25%.

David Mascort, who heads Catalonia’s environmental authority, said that plans were still intact to install a floating desalination plant off Barcelona’s coast in October. He said that Catalonia’s reserves for the areas fed by the Ter and Llobregat rivers were now near the same level as the previous year.

“We are in the same situation as last year, but this time, we are better prepared. If in May 2023 some 65% of our water came from our reservoirs, now it is only 50%” thanks to an expansion in Catalonia’s water reuse and desalination infrastructure, Mascort said.

However, Catalonia’s government spokeswoman, Patrícia Plaja, warned that “the drought is not over.”

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