The Urgell irrigation canal, located in the Catalan province of Lleida, northern Spain, will only have been open for one month. On Friday, April 21, the community of irrigators of this hydraulic infrastructure that transports water from the Segre to neighboring municipalities and allows the watering of 50,000 hectares of fields and orchards decided to close the valves.
“We have to reserve the remaining water in the two dams connected to the Segre for the 120 municipalities, the 2,000 livestock farms and the 300 industries that depend on them, until we see if it finally rains,” said Amadeu Ros Farré, president of the community of irrigators of the Urgell canal.
“This means we will have to sacrifice 9,000 hectares of alfalfa and we will not be able to plant the 7,000 hectares of corn that we had planned. We have water reserved for drip irrigation of fruit trees, mainly apples and pears, so that they don ‘t die. Hopefully, this will be enough,” he said.
According to the 66-year-old farmer, the weather has never been “so dry” for so long. For more than 31 months now, Catalonia has been suffering a drought that has only accelerated. Since the beginning of the meteorological registers, in 1905, Catalonia is experiencing its longest period without rain.
In November last year, when the level of Catalan dams fell to 33%, the entire Ter-Llobregat basin, the two main rivers that supply Barcelona, and the Darnius-Boadella basin, on which Girona depends, were placed on alert for drought.
Water restrictions were imposed on more than 6.6 million, that is 85% of Catalans, both for agriculture (-25%) and industry (-5%) or watering of parks and gardens. “Residents will not notice them, there will be no water cut and drinking water is guaranteed for more than a year,” Teresa Jorda, the regional minister of climate action, agriculture and food, said at the time.
But on February 28, the government of Catalonia finally declared the “exception” phase, the last before activating the “emergency” phase, which does provide for water cuts.
The director of the Catalan water agency, Samuel Reyes, said that if it does not rain soon, it will be necessary to consider at least from September decreases in the pressure supplied. Even hourly cuts. For the time being, the restrictions have been set at 40% for agriculture, 30% for livestock and 15% for industry.
It is forbidden to water private and public gardens, and street cleaning cannot be done with drinking water. City councils are obliged to limit water to 230 liters per capita per day, including commercial and economic use or face fines. The regional government reserves the right to expropriate wells and water sources.
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