The rain in March ensures two months of reserves but does not solve the drought

The rains of the last few days have brought new relief to the region of Barcelona and Girona, but they do not allow us to sing victory over the drought.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 11:21
6 Reads
The rain in March ensures two months of reserves but does not solve the drought

The rains of the last few days have brought new relief to the region of Barcelona and Girona, but they do not allow us to sing victory over the drought. The tendency to recover the level of the Ter and Llobregat reservoirs observed in March has made it possible to gain reserves equivalent to two months' consumption. Despite this, the central region of Catalonia is still in a state of emergency.

The rains of Holy Week have been widespread in large areas of Catalonia, but they have not brought abundant amounts. They have been beneficial for forests and crops, but the level of the reservoirs in the region served by the Ter and the Llobregat is still very worrying. They are at 17.4% of maximum capacity, so the conditions are not there to lift the emergency situation (a phase that was entered when the reservoirs dropped by 16%). Government spokesmen have insisted that it would not make sense to lift the emergency if a few days later the levels drop and it is necessary to decree it again.

Reserves have been recovering since March 8-9, despite the fact that volume gains have been very slight. "The amounts collected at the headers have not been abundant during the last few days of Holy Week (30-35 liters maximum, in some places) and much of the precipitation has been in the form of snow", point out the technicians of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA). In the area supplied by the Ter and Llobregat rivers, reserves reach 107 hm3 and 17.4% of capacity. This means an improvement of 16 hm3 and nearly 2 percentage points in one month. Given that 0.24 hm3 of water is released in the entire central region of Catalonia every day, this means that the 16 hm3 have allowed a little more than two months to be gained.

The rains have broken a negative trend since the summer of 2023. "It is a very modest improvement, they are still insufficient volumes to change to a scenario with fewer limitations on the use of water", the same sources point out. "It will be necessary to see if in the rest of spring, in April, May and June, new and more relevant rain episodes are recorded", they add.

The reservoir that has recovered the most is that of Sau, which has gone from 1% at the beginning of the month to 5.9% while that of Susqueda has reached 21.4%. In the Llobregat basin, the Baells reservoir is at 23%, the Llosa del Cavall at 14%, and Sant Ponç at 7.69%. In the coming days, the recovery will continue, as the headwater flows are higher than at the beginning of March and it is expected that the thaw will contribute a little more. With regard to the overall internal basins of Catalonia, they stand at 16.9% (117 hm3), when a month ago they were at 15% (with 101 hm3). The reservoirs of Darnius, Boadella, Siurana and Riudecanyes have had a very small increase.

In Spain as a whole, the Easter rains have caused the water reserve to increase by 5.3 points to stand at 63.1%. Unlike what has happened in the internal basins of Catalonia, Andalusia shows a slightly more substantial improvement. The Guadalete-Barbate basin is at 27.2%, and the Andalusian Mediterranean at 26.9%.

Hugo Morán, Secretary of State for the Environment, said that the improvement brought by these rains must be assessed with "caution, since in some hydrographic basins we have been managing drought for six years", which means that "the impacts of climate change will last". "The problem is still concentrated in three intra-community demarcations: in one case it is the competence of the Generalitat, and the others, of the Junta de Andalucía", said Moran, who qualified that "caution must be maintained so that these basins do not return to exceptional situations". He gave as an example the case of Catalonia, where "there has not even been a minimal recovery in the availability of resources".

In this sense, he recalled that the possible modifications regarding water restriction measures correspond to these autonomous communities, although he ratified the Ministry's desire to promote the Foix/Cubelles and Tordera II desalination plants in Catalonia and two more in Andalusia.

Hugo Morán estimated that, given the distribution of the rains, the drought in the south of the peninsula cannot be taken for granted, since it is only "a specific episode" that is favorable. "The contributions of this storm must not divert us from the path of saving and reusing water. The important thing is to implement hydrological planning processes that adapt to reality, not to try to force planning, because reality will be stubborn. Once that hydrological planning is approved, its application must not be neglected", said the Secretary of State.

In Spain as a whole, the rains that fell during this Holy Week represent more than three times what is usually recorded at this time in almost the whole country, according to data from the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet). Precipitation exceeded 100 liters/m2 in large areas of the south of the Peninsula, points in the center, Galicia and the Pyrenees.