Catalans face carwash bans, swimming pool restrictions over record drought

BARCELONA -Residents of the eastern Spanish region of Catalonia will be banned from washing their cars and filling up empty swimming pools under measures announced on Thursday to alleviate the region’s worst drought on record.

The measures, which will come into force on Friday, will affect around six million people in 200 villages, towns and cities, including Spain’s second largest city Barcelona. They were adopted after reservoirs fell close to 16% of their capacity.

The Iberian peninsula is its driest in 1,200 years, a 2022 study showed, forcing officials to consider bringing in water by ship to Barcelona, a measure adopted in 2008 when reservoir levels were close to 20% and fewer desalination plants were operating.

The local government wants residents to cut their water usage by 5% and farmers by up to 80%. Under a first set of measures, which could be toughened up if the situation does not improve, permitted water usage will be reduced to 200 litres from 210 litres per person a day.

“The drought will be overcome, but we’re in a new climate reality in which it’s more likely that there’ll be new droughts and that they’ll be more intense,” regional chief Pere Aragones told a press briefing.

Trees will only be irrigated with residual waters to guarantee their survival, while filling empty swimming pools will be banned, including at tourist facilities.

However, competitive swimming clubs will be allowed to partially fill their indoor pools as long as they take countermeasures, such as closing showers.

The greater Barcelona area has already reduced water pressure in some towns’ supply systems and will impose sanctions of up to 3,000 euros ($3,242) for breaking restrictions, though it was unclear how authorities would monitor breaches.

At the Sau reservoir, which is at 4% of its capacity, a church tower which used to be underwater has surfaced.

“I was here as a child, I remember it. I’m 77 years old now and I had never seen it like this,” Joaquim Casali said at the reservoir on Wednesday. REUTERS

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