The Government avoids anticipating the emergency so as not to harm economic activity

The Government has chosen to avoid bringing forward the emergency phase due to the drought, as it has been considering for some time.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
06 December 2023 Wednesday 22:01
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The Government avoids anticipating the emergency so as not to harm economic activity

The Government has chosen to avoid bringing forward the emergency phase due to the drought, as it has been considering for some time. The reason? Above all, it does not want to cause damage to economic activities with new restrictions that could be very harmful. The Catalan Executive has given the green light to what it has called the “pre-emergency” phase, a stage that was not foreseen in the special drought plan (2020). And it does so with the intention of speeding up savings possibilities in various sectors and to “cause the least possible damage”, although it is admitted that “the emergency is around the corner.” With the current evolution, this emergency would perhaps arrive in the second half of December, when the reservoirs are at 16% of their capacity (now they are at 18.5%).

The decision not to advance the emergency phase (as a preventive option) seeks not to harm the interests of certain economic sectors. Since spring, a good part of the restrictions have been applied to the agricultural, livestock and industrial sectors (which have had water supply cuts of 40%, 30% and 15%, respectively). The declaration of emergency would involve raising these water use limitations to 80%, 50% and 25%, respectively. The Catalan Water Agency (ACA) reminds us that additional water restrictions could be very harmful to industry and companies, to the point that they could affect employment. For this reason, “a balance” is sought so as not to damage their economies and at the same time guarantee supply.

Another reason for the “pre-emergency” is that in the last year there has been no significant reduction in water consumption in the metropolitan region, despite the seriousness of the situation. In this new phase of the drought, the allocations to the municipalities of the Barcelona and Girona region (served by the Ter and the Llobregat) are cut, going from 230 to 210 liters per person per day (for all uses, including domestic, urban, municipal...).

Secondly, the Government activates this alarm as a “wake-up call to citizens”, as a warning that should translate into better knowledge of the measures already established to restrict the use of drinking water (filling of private pools and for individual or family, cleaning streets and cars or filling ornamental fountains...). The prohibition on watering grass in public and private areas will be maintained and, in addition, the availability of water for federated sports activities (soccer fields, like Barça's...) will be reduced by half, which goes from 450 to 200 m³ per hectare per month.

The measure that limits the provision of water to municipalities to 210 liters opens the door for them to take new extraordinary water-saving measures. The Generalitat invites you to do so; or required, as the case may be. This smaller supply of water will not have a direct and immediate impact on the first metropolitan ring (leading them, for example, to reduce the pressure of the network), since these cities are consuming less water than the established threshold. But it will force us to act accordingly in other towns that consume a greater flow, such as Argentona (which spends 291 liters per person per day), Alella (227), l'Ametlla del Vallès (277), Llinars (229), Granollers ( 224), Matadepera (468), Sant Feliu de Guíxols (225) or Olesa de Montserrat (224), and who must decide how to respond to this new twist.

Based on the new provisions, municipalities have the autonomy to decide how to adjust. Those responsible for the Generalitat do not assess whether municipalities should reduce the pressure on the network, but this is one of the options that their emergency plans for the drought can include. “From the ACA we cannot force it; We do not enter into local autonomy,” they say, although logically files will continue to be opened if more than what is stipulated is consumed. In the case of Barcelona, ​​this reduction could come with an emergency at level 3, when the supply was 160 liters (and now it uses 170).

The Aigües de Barcelona company has carried out technical tests that have shown that a saving of 7.6% has been obtained. However, this company has indicated that the possible pressure drop would give priority to municipalities that exceed the maximum water supply. On the other hand, the ACA maintains that lowering pressure can be an effective preventive measure that municipalities can use to reduce consumption before other more drastic options. The Barcelona Metropolitan Area has not explained its plans.