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Catalan Farmers Rally for Support Amidst Severe Drought

In Barcelona, amidst a backdrop of barbecued artichokes and the sound of rock music, Catalan farmers have gathered, not for celebration but to express their deep concerns over the ongoing drought that threatens their livelihoods.

Image source: BBC News

"We're facing a severe drought," explained Xavier Oliva, an artichoke farmer from the outskirts of Barcelona. "Without rain, planting is impossible."

The farmers are not only challenging stringent EU agricultural regulations but are urgently calling for more direct support from the regional government to combat the water scarcity that endangers their work.

By late January, reservoirs serving Barcelona and its surrounding areas had dwindled to below 16% capacity, prompting the Catalan government to declare a state of emergency for approximately six million residents.

This declaration has led to significant restrictions on water usage, affecting both livestock and crop farming severely. Livestock farmers have seen their water allowance halved, while crop farmers like Oliva face an 80% reduction. "This could force us to plant 80% less or even abandon farming altogether," Oliva, a member of the El Prat farming cooperative, shared with concern.

The emergency measures include a daily water consumption cap of 200 litres per person and reduced water pressure in areas of high usage. Additionally, river flows are being heavily regulated.

These steps build on existing restrictions, such as the cessation of decorative fountain use and strict controls on garden watering and street cleaning. More drastic actions, like importing water by boat from other regions of Spain, are planned if the drought persists.

Catalonia's efforts to mitigate the drought's impact include modernising irrigation systems, repairing water pipeline leaks, and a commitment to invest €2.4 billion by 2027 to boost water production capacity.

Currently, 55% of the water supply in the drought-affected area comes from desalinated and recycled sources, with plans to double this output in the next three years.

"We've been focusing on how to prepare for these drought scenarios and become more resilient in the face of climate change," stated Meritxell Serret, Catalonia's minister for foreign action.

The Mediterranean region is warming 20% faster than the global average, exacerbating drought conditions not only in Catalonia but across Spain. In response, businesses like Canaletas, a drinking fountain manufacturer, are adapting to the new water consumption guidelines, including a 25% reduction for industries. "If this situation continues indefinitely, it will pose a serious problem," said Jordi Morera, the owner of Canaletas.

Industry leaders are calling for financial compensation to mitigate the drought's economic impact. "The government should have acted sooner on issues like pipeline leaks," argued Jaume Roura, president of Barcelona's metal industry association.

The association is assessing the drought's potential impact on industry, with Roura warning that reduced water availability will inevitably lead to higher consumer prices.


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