With no prospects of rain, drought worsens in more than half of Spain

After a March with almost no rain, an even worse start to April - with barely 2 litres per square meter across Spain - and with no prospect of precipitation in the coming days, drought is worsening in almost all of the country, with greater intensity in large areas of the north, northeast of the peninsula and in Andalusia.

For the next ten days, "there are no signs of large amounts of rain," said Rubén Del Campo, spokesperson for Aemet, who emphasizes that this situation "aggravates" the long-lasting meteorological drought that Spain is experiencing, especially in the northeast of Castilla y León, the Basque Country, Navarra, northern Aragon, Catalonia, Andalusia, and southern Castilla-La Mancha.

However, the drought is not an isolated event: in the last 60 years, the Iberian Peninsula has experienced three long and intense droughts (1982-1984, 1991-1996, and 2005-2009), with 2005 being the year with the least precipitation of the studied series (1961-2018). Other shorter episodes occurred between 1975 and 1976, 1987 and 1988, 2000 and 2001, and 2017 and 2018.

"Specific areas may be experiencing very intense droughts now," but these have been the worst episodes for the entire Iberian Peninsula until today, Del Campo specified.

The lack of rain also affects the accumulated precipitation, which, from October 1st to the first week of April, shows 334 litres per square meter throughout Spain, i.e., 19% less than the normal value for this period (411 litres).

By geographic areas, the accumulated amounts are below normal in the Cantabrian strip, except in Galicia, in much of the eastern half of the Peninsula, in the southern third, and in the Canary Islands, except in the southern half of Tenerife.

This situation, far from reversing, does not augur well for the future: May, at the moment, "does not seem to be very rainy, and June never is," observed Del Campo, who emphasizes that for the summer, the models predict a season that will be "very hot again, we do not know if as much as last year, but with temperatures considerably above normal."

The lack of precipitation reduces soil moisture, reduces river flows, and depletes water reserves, which currently add up to 28,665 cubic hectometres, a figure far from the ten-year average (37,445 hm3), according to data from the Ministry for Ecological Transition, which detail that the water stored in reservoirs is the lowest percentage for this week since 2011, only surpassed by 2022.

By autonomous communities, the highest levels of stored water are in Galicia (80.1%), followed by Asturias (78.9%), the Basque Country (76.1%), La Rioja (73.9%), Castilla y León (70%), the Community of Madrid (68.3%), the Foral Community of Navarre (64.3%), Aragon (58%), the Valencian Community (57.5%), and Extremadura (52.3%).

Below 50% of stored water are the communities of Cantabria (42.7%), Catalonia (42.4%), Castilla-La Mancha (40%), while in the last places, and with less than 30% of water stored, are Andalusia (29.5%) and the Region of Murcia (27.7%).

As a curious fact, it should be noted that, by provinces, Almería (12.9%), Barcelona (14.2%), and Córdoba (19.2%) currently has the least amount of water stored. Del Campo has emphasised that the scarcity of rainfall also has repercussions in other aspects such as forest fires and agriculture. In this sector, and given the alarming situation of the Spanish countryside, the Ministry of Agriculture has convened the National Drought Table for next week.

In Andalusia, with the Guadalquivir basin at 25.5% of its capacity, the Andalusian government is finalising a third drought decree, which will be launched in April.

For his part, the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, has warned that drought is already "the first problem in Catalonia" and has advocated for "adapting the country" to this new scenario of water stress, which involves building new infrastructure such as desalination and water treatment plants in the medium term.

Regarding forest fires, the spokesperson has lamented the almost 52,000 hectares burned in Spain between January and April: "The situation with fires has started very badly due to the drought and the large amount of very dry organic matter we have in the forests."

"In the last 16 years, we had not had so many fires at this time of year in Spain, and for now, there is no clear change in rainfall trends that could improve the situation," he concluded.

Drought will cause crop failures in Spain, farmers warn

Drought now affects 60% of the Spanish countryside, with crops like wheat and barley in four regions likely to fail entirely, the main Spanish farmers association said on Thursday.

Spain’s long-term drought is causing “irreversible losses” to more than 3.5 million hectares of crops, the Coordinator of Farmers and Ranchers Organisations said in a new report, with wheat and barley in four major growing regions “written off” and badly affected in three more.

Nuts and vineyards were struggling and olives will be badly affected if rain does not arrive in the next few weeks, the report added.

The drought was also affecting farmers’ ability to irrigate corn, sunflowers, rice and cotton, likely leading to reduced sowing of these crops over the summer, it added.

This will be the third consecutive season without honey for beekeepers, as bees lack vegetation and flowers to feed from in the mountains due to a shortage of water.

The Regional Government assures that the drought situation 'is not worrisome, it is alarming'

The Minister of Sustainability and spokesperson of the Andalusian Regional Government, Ramón Fernández-Pacheco, stated on Friday that the drought situation is not only "worrisome," but he would "describe it as alarming" and "very serious."

"Regarding this drought, there is nothing we can do to make it rain. Water cannot be manufactured yet. There are two attitudes, the attitude of doing absolutely nothing, which is what the Spanish government is doing, and what the PSOE repeatedly asks us to do, or the attitude of not being proactive, but hyperactive," he said in a statement to the media in Almería.

He argued that the Andalusian Regional Government presents measures to the Council of Government every week, with projects and infrastructure that "seek to alleviate this situation" because "water can be desalinated, water can be purified, water can be transferred, water can be stored, and its use can be optimised."

"That is why the Andalusian Regional Government has already presented two drought decrees, mostly invested and executed to alleviate the consequences of the drought. That is why the Andalusian Regional Government has created a committee of experts who scientifically analyse the situation in our autonomous community to make the best decisions," he explained.

He also mentioned the SOS Plan, which plans to invest more than 4 billion euros in the coming years, and that the third decree against drought is being prepared, because "when facing drought, we must be proactive."

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