“The drought does not ease,” highlights the Catalan government. The reservoirs continue to decline and on average are already at 23% of their maximum capacity. In this context, the regional executive has agreed to extend the emergency declaration to a total of 12 municipalities in the area of the Darnius Boadella reservoir (Alt Empordà), which will be added to the 24 that were already in this situation (22 in the area of the Fluvià Muga aquifer, also in Alt Empordà, and both in the Riudecanyes area). In total there are 36 municipalities in a situation that will be in emergency, with almost 150,000 inhabitants.
The agreement has been taken in the Interdepartmental Drought Commission (composed of the various departments involved). This measure, however, will come into force when the resolution of the director of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) is published in the DOGC, scheduled for next week.
The Barcelona region would enter an emergency in the month of December if it does not rain according to the new updated forecasts.
“After the rains of these days someone may think that the drought has passed; but it is not like that,” emphasizes Samuel Reyes, director of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA).
For this reason, the ACA has proposed declaring a state of emergency in the Darnius Boadella area (as determined by the 2020 Sequera Plan), with the aim of preventing the municipalities that depend on the reservoir from having supply problems. Until now, all of them were in an exceptional situation. In total, in this way there will be 149,000 inhabitants who will be in the emergency phase (123,080 from Darnius Boadella, 24,399 from Fluvià Muga and 1,692 from Riudecanyes).
Among the municipalities that depend on the Darnius Boadella reservoir are Figueres, Roses or Cadaqués, along with Cabanes, Castelló d'Empúries, Fortià, Llers, Riumors, Santa Llogaia d'Àlguema, Vilamalla, Vila-sacra and El Far d' Emporda
This reservoir is now at 17% of its capacity. Of these municipalities, ten comply with the provisions set in the Sequera Plan, while only two exceed the limits set within the exceptional scenario that has been in force in recent months.
With the entry into emergency, a global water supply of 200 liters per inhabitant per day on average per municipality for all uses is set.
With regard to the rest of the uses, in the emergency scenario, agricultural irrigation is suppressed (only survival irrigation of woody crops may be authorized), water consumption by industrial users must be reduced by 25%; and reduce water consumption in recreational uses (25% in uses similar to urban ones and the total elimination of irrigation).
It must be taken into account, however, that the irrigation campaign in the Muga area has already ended, with a reduction of 85% in consumption compared to a normal year.
It has also been agreed that the Carme-Capellades (Anoia) aquifer enters a scenario of exceptionality (the one prior to the emergency and in which the metropolitan area of Barcelona is already), while that of the Baix Ter (Baix Empordà) increases to the state of alert, prior to exceptionality.
In this way, in the Catalan basins there are 13 municipalities in a normal situation, 105 on alert, 477 in an exceptional situation and 36 in an emergency.
Reyes has acknowledged that consumption has been reduced by 7% since August of last year, which shows that the measures are positive so that the Barcelona region can extend the exceptional period before entering the emergency phase.
Samuel Reyes, director of the Catalan Water Agency, admitted that "it is possible" that some municipalities and supply entities will increase the water service rate as a result of the rise in costs, especially those related to energy, personnel and reactive, although he clarified that this is a municipal competence.
"In many cases, the current rates already provide for investments and replacement funds; and some municipalities have put out to tender their concession services with part of these works; therefore, all this depends on each municipality. But what is also clear is that There have been increases in energy costs and in some municipalities in personnel costs; and it is possible that some municipalities will have to increase the rate," says Reyes.
On the other hand, the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) has resolved this week on a new line of aid to improve the high water supply of municipalities, with an endowment of 40 million euros.
The aid consists of improving the guarantee in quantity and quality for municipalities with supply problems or that depend on vulnerable catchments.
This subsidy initially had a budget of 15 million euros and it was decided to increase the amount to 40 million euros in order to meet the high volume of applications received.
A total of 209 subsidies have been awarded, of which 81 correspond to the regions of Barcelona (12.9 million euros), 38 to those of Girona (4.9 million euros), 26 to those of Tarragona (13. 5 million euros), 12 in Terres de l'Ebre (2.2 MEUR) and 52 in Lleida (6.3 MEUR).
In this call, new criteria have been included to receive this aid with the aim of improving the degree of execution of the aid granted, addressing problems that were not included and promoting good practices.
Therefore, they have obtained additional scores for criteria such as obtaining good network performance, having savings ordinances, demonstrating that there is a tariff effort that accredits the impact of the costs associated with the supply service, already having the project drafted and demonstrating the viability of financing, among other elements.
One of the priority works to address the shortages in the supply of the metropolitan region of Barcelona is the rehabilitation and adaptation of the production capacity and optimization of the treatment quality of the Ter water treatment plant (in Cardedeu), which produces service to the Barcelona region.
The tender for these works is scheduled for next October and has a cost of 130 million euros. The planned execution period is 48 months. The project is already drafted, the public information process concluded and final approval resolved.
To comply with the new regulations, the work will include the rehabilitation of the existing sand filters, the construction of new activated carbon grain filters and the construction of a new ozonation and sodium hypochlorite disinfection facility.
This treatment plant has been preparing and adapting over the last two years through different actions to improve the quality of the water arriving from Sau-Susqueda-Pasteral and guarantee supply. During this summer, a contract has been processed through an emergency procedure for the replacement of active carbon grain in 24 filters, to guarantee the quality parameters of the water that comes from the reservoirs.
"The active carbon has been replaced to improve purification, but not a drop of water has been lost," says Reyes.
Meanwhile, the consumption data of the municipalities (which have a limited limit for all uses) have already been updated on the drought portal. The downward trend in consumption is confirmed for the majority of the population, although there are still exceptions in some municipalities, the ACA emphasizes.
In this sense, the ACA has activated the administrative mechanisms, given that the moratorium on sanctions agreed by the Parliament of Catalonia already ended on August 7 and, therefore, in the coming weeks it will begin to send requirements in relation to non-compliance. detected in August.
This is the previous step to opening sanctioning files for those municipalities that still exceed the maximum allocations allowed for each scenario of the drought plan.