Taking a dip in a swimming pool just a month before Christmas seemed foolish, but after Barcelona had mild weather that was more like a warm spring, Domingo Vazquez, 24, was very tempted to arrange for a swim.
“I’m sure the water will be freezing cold, but the weather was so warm. At least for a quick swim, it feels just right,” said the music teacher.
He didn’t disappoint us when he carefully swam a few laps in an outdoor pool near Barcelona.
But starting on Friday, these luxury symbols were in the spotlight as Catalan authorities imposed a series of water restrictions after Spain suffered the longest drought on record.
Under the new rules, swimming pools cannot be refilled, showers are limited to five minutes, many municipal fountains have been switched off, cars cannot be cleaned and gardens may only be washed two days a week. Private water supply companies will notify authorities when households use too much water.
So far, drinking water has not been cut, but unless the skies open soon, authorities in Barcelona and more than 500 cities in this northeast region may have to impose further restrictions.
It is the second area in Spain to impose water restrictions.
Seville shut down its water supply in September after a long summer when temperatures near Cordoba in southern Spain reached up to 47 degrees Celsius.
Longest lasting drought
According to AEMET, the Spanish meteorological agency, the dried-up Mediterranean nation has experienced the longest-lasting drought since records began in 1961.
According to the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition, Catalonia’s reservoirs have dropped to 34% of their capacity.
The long dry period has even produced a new phenomenon: drought tourism.
At the Sau Reservoir 100 kilometers north of Barcelona, water capacity has dropped to 18%.
It means that the 10th-century San Pau Church, which went underground in 1962 on the orders of Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco, has emerged from the depths and has become a major draw.
Kayaking and canoeing usually drew the crowds, but now weekend visitors are coming from Barcelona to take selfies in front of the church, which is highly visible.
“People just come here now to have their pictures taken, so I’ve decided to stop kayaking in September. There wasn’t enough water and there was so much mud that it wasn’t good,” Sebastian Parès, owner of Kayak Sau, told CNNBreakingNews.net.
“It wasn’t a good year and even if it rains next year, it probably won’t be much better. It is worrying.”
According to Parès, the company survived despite the drought because it offers other activities, such as electric bikes.
Drivers are standing in line to wash their cars
Back in Barcelona, at the cheap BonArea garage, there is usually a queue of drivers waiting to refuel their cars with cheaper fuel, especially as the cost of living crisis has driven up gas prices.
But on Thursday evening, they waited in line to wash them before a ban took effect the next day.
“It’s the last time we’ll be able to do this before these restrictions are introduced. Who knows how long it will be before it rains here? “María Barros, a businesswoman who washed her new Kia, told CNNbreakingNews.net.
Barros lives nearby in Castelldefels, an affluent suburb of Barcelona, where she owns a swimming pool.
Under the new rules, pool owners won’t be able to refill their pools, but those using the same water won’t have to make any changes.
Homeowners can only water their gardens two days a week. Homes with even numbers may offer some relief to plants on Wednesday or Saturday, while the odds are the same on Thursday and Sunday.
Streets cannot be washed with drinking water. The water supply to farmers and industrial companies was reduced by 25%.
Patricia Plaja, a spokeswoman for the Catalan regional government, said there was no need to limit water consumption in households for washing, drinking or cooking.
“Be aware of the exceptional situation the country is facing,” she said at a press conference. “The climatic context (means) that Catalonia will suffer longer and more frequent droughts.”
Almost half of all public fountains in Barcelona are shut down.
A popular attraction for tourists, the Magic Fountain, whose water is colored at night while classical music is played, has been spared for the time being.
The taps for the ornamental fountain on Paseo de Gracía, Barcelona’s upscale shopping street, have been shut down, where Gucci, Chanel and Prada are vying for the attention of tourists who have just arrived from cruises.
In 2008, a prolonged drought forced Spanish authorities to bring water to Barcelona by boat to ensure domestic use.
This water crisis led to the construction of a desalination plant near Barcelona, which, according to Catalan authorities, is the largest in Europe with a capacity of 60 hm3 per year. According to the authorities, it is now operating at 90% capacity.
Climate scientists have identified the Mediterranean as one of the world regions that will suffer the most from rising temperatures due to climate change.
According to the Catalan Water Authority, unless there is significant rainfall in winter, farmers will have difficulty growing crops. You could try watering plants with barely any water next summer.
According to Unesco, the UN body, water irrigation consumes around 70% of the water supply.