Barcelona water shortage: Spanish city faces water ban as Catalonia declares state of emergency amid 'worst drought ever'

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Barcelona faces a water ban and swimming pool closures as the Spanish region declares a state of emergency amid its "worst drought ever"

The Spanish region of Catalonia has declared a state of emergency as it faces its “worst drought ever” with tourists facing swimming pool closures in Barcelona. The region’s government has imposed emergency measures over the crisis, caused by a lack of rainfall.

The measures ban the refilling of pools or topping them up unless recycled water is used. More than six million Catalans will be affected across 200 towns and cities, including the capital Barcelona.

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Pere Aragonès, Catalonia’s president, said “it’s the worst drought ever recorded” and the emergency measures will take effect from Friday. The first phase of restrictions includes a ban on washing cars and watering public gardens while private pools at hotels and elsewhere cannot be emptied and refilled, and are only permitted to be topped up if facilities have water regeneration systems. The only exceptions will be made for swimming pools used for therapeutic purposes in hospitals, nursing homes and facilities for the disabled.

The restrictions were announced after reservoirs fell to close to 16% of their capacity. The measures aim to lower the daily amount of water permitted for residential and municipal purposes from 210 to 200 litres (55 to 52 gallons) per person.

Measures will be ramped up in two more phases if winter and spring do not bring abundant rains, with limits lowered to 180 litres, and then 160 litres, if required. Across the board, agricultural irrigation must be reduced by 80 per cent, water use in livestock farming by half, and in the industry and leisure sector by 25 per cent. If triggered, a second phase of restrictions would see showers at gyms switched off.

Spain is familiar with dry conditions and other areas of the country are also suffering droughts. However, Catalonia, which borders southern France, is less used to such conditions. Officials are considering bringing in water by ship to Barcelona should it run dry - a measure that was previously adopted in 2008.

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In Barcelona itself the drought's impact is less visible than in the nearby mountains but the city’s have been switched off for the last year and the watering of public and private gardens is mostly prohibited. Barcelona has the status as Spain's top tourist destination - and so it raises the question as to how it would handle the peak summer season if the drought were to continue.

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