Barcelona declares drought emergency, with big fines for breaking water rules

“We are entering a new climate reality,” Catalonia’s regional president Pere Aragon├Ęs said when announcing the emergency.

“It is more than likely we will see more droughts that will be both more intense and more frequent.”

Catalan authorities declared a state of pre-emergency in November last year. Now, high temperatures have reduced the already low water levels in reservoirs.

The region's almost 40-month-long lack of rain has exacerbated the situation. Experts say climate change is driving the drought, with the entire Mediterranean region expected to warm faster than many other parts of the world in the coming years.

""Southern Europe is experiencing potentially critical drought conditions. The most affected regions are the Mediterranean coast of Spain, central and southern Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean islands," the Copernicus Emergency Management Service told Euronews.

"These conditions, combined with low rainfall and snow cover, raise concerns for the coming spring and summer. The management of water resources should be monitored and planned," they added.

"Droughts are natural in the Mediterranean climate pattern. What is very dramatic are the projections of climate change. ... What we are seeing is an increase in the intensity and frequency of droughts," Annelies Broekman, a water management specialist at the Barcelona-based research institute CREAF, told the Associated Press.

Broekman noted an important difference between the extraordinarily intense dry spell northeastern Spain is experiencing now and the last serious drought in Catalonia in 2008, when boats were used to transport water to Barcelona.

Next week, Catalan authorities will meet with Teresa Ribera, Spain's Minister of Energy and Climate, to discuss the potential to take water from other territories if necessary in the coming months.

According to the latest data from the National Statistics Institute, Spaniards use an average of 133 litres of water per day. The regional emergency declaration aims to reduce water for crop irrigation by 80%, for livestock by 50% and for industry by 25%. The less populated southern part of the region is fed by the Ebro river and is in better shape.

Barcelona declares drought emergency, with big fines for breaking water rules

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