World Water Day: Spanish concerns

World Water Day

A drop of water. Credit: VladKK/

Is water the next urgent global crisis? In Spain, the alarming rate of water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change is a prominent issue.

On World Water Day, March 22, experts highlighted the concerning state of water use and scarcity in Spain, pointing to the need for sustainable management and climate action.

Spain Faces Severe Drought Conditions

Spain’s struggle with drought is intensifying due to a combination of high temperatures and insufficient rainfall.

The country is witnessing a significant increase in ‘water stress’, primarily due to unsustainable water usage in agriculture and other sectors, leading to a severe drought across vast regions.

As of mid-March, the water reserves in Spanish dams were at 57.8 per cent of their capacity, indicating a troubling situation that is below the average levels of the past decade.

The Murcian Miracle: A Unique Exception

While most of Spain grapples with water restrictions, the ‘Murcian miracle’ stands out as an exception. Despite being the driest region of the peninsula, Murcia somehow manages to escape water restrictions.

However, this anomaly does not mask the broader issue affecting nearly 75 per cent of Spanish territory at risk of desertification. This risk is further compounded by the consumption habits of irrigated crops, which devour more than 85 per cent of the country’s water resources.

Urgent need for climate action

Santiago Martin Barajas, an agronomist at Ecologistas en Accion, describes the situation as ‘quite worrying’. He highlights that the southern half of Spain is nearing a ‘water collapse’, with areas like Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, and Andalucia facing supply cuts, reports Telecinco.

The water, as it reaches the reservoirs, is diverted directly to irrigation and ‘he swamps function as simple transfer stations, not as water stores,’ he says, underlining the urgent need for climate action.

Solutions to combat water scarcity

To address the water deficit, Spain is exploring methods like seawater desalination and water reuse. According to Belen Gutierrez and Silvia Castillo of the Spanish Association of Desalination and Reuse (AEDyR), the country produces five million cubic hectometres of desalinated water annually.

‘If we assimilate that all the water was for human consumption and that the plants were operating at one hundred per cent of their capacity, it could supply 34 million people,’ Gutierrez notes.

Desalination plants, predominantly located in water-deficient areas such as the Mediterranean arc and the islands, provide a vital source of water for various needs, including agriculture.

Planning for the future

The experts emphasise the importance of planning, considering the current and future needs and stocks of water resources. This includes improving the distribution network to minimise losses and enhance the reuse of water, ensuring sustainable management in the face of increasing demand and climate challenges.

As Spain and the rest of Europe face rapid warming, the call for urgent climate adaptation measures becomes even more critical.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.