Spain is running out of water. After a long and painful drought, the country has been hit by an unusually early heat wave, evaporating even more of the “blue gold” it still has left in its reservoirs. While farmers fear for their survival, environmentalists say it is time for “Europe’s back garden” to rethink how it uses and manages its increasingly scarce water supply.
There’s an expression in Spain: “En Abril, aguas mil” – April will bring the rains. Only this year, it didn’t. The month of April was the driest month on record, and several Spanish cities registered their highest April temperatures yet. In Cordoba, the mercury rose to 38.7°C (almost 102°F) at one point, and in the province of Seville in Andalusia to 37.8°C.
Coming on the heels of a long-term drought and an unusually warm and dry winter, the latest heat wave has sparked a real fear of shortages.
“The situation is particularly alarming in the regions of Catalonia and Andalusia, where the water reservoirs are at less than 25 percent of their capacity,” said Jorge Olcina, head of the climatology laboratory at the University of Alicante. Both regions imposed water restrictions at the end of February, meaning inhabitants were no longer allowed to water their gardens or fill their swimming pools. Farmers were also asked to reduce irrigation.
Thousands of inhabitants in the Andalusian village of Jaen even went so far as to organise an “El Abuelo” procession to beg for rain on May 1, bringing out their Christ statue to reinforce their prayers. It was the first time the statue had been brought out of the church basement since 1949…