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Spain experiencing another year of water stress

28 Sep 2016



Spain is experiencing yet another year of water stress, with over half the country suffering from rainfall and soil moisture deficiency, according to the European Drought Observatory

Severe Weather

Inclement weather is again a major source of the water stress problem. Ana Casals, a spokesperson for the meteorological agency Aemet, says that rainfall has not been this low since records began 150 years ago.

TV meteorologist Jose Antonio Maldonado adds, “We have never seen such a long and intense drought. Even during the second worst period of drought on record, there was twice as much rain as there is now.” In addition, many parts of Spain are experiencing unusually high temperatures, sometimes reaching 40° C.

According to a study by the Spanish National Research Centre, the country’s droughts are becoming more intense and frequent than ever before. In the past, droughts have been so severe that Spain imported water by ship from France. 

The Human Factor

The lack of rainfall is exacerbated by gross over-usage of water and inefficiency. An incredible 80% of available water is used by the agricultural sector. In Southern Spain, this rises to a whopping 88 percent. Unfortunately, much of that is wasted through a combination of inefficient irrigation systems and water-thirsty crops unsuitable for the arid climate.

Meanwhile low water prices result in over-use use and low investment in water-efficient infrastructure. If all this were not bad enough, many farms rely for their water on the digging of illegal boreholes. There are an estimated half a million of these already and government attempts to shut them down have been met with fierce opposition.

Threat of Desertification

These twin threats: low rainfall and high water use – could result in permanent damage to the local ecosystem.  A very real possibility is desertification – with some fearing the Sahara Desert will leap across the Mediterranean. According to the Spanish government, one third of the country is in immediate danger of turning into desert.

TAG: Drought, water stress, inefficient irrigation systems, desertification

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