With water resources currently running very low, the Catalan Water Agency has issued a warning over the Ter-Llobregat water basin which supplies the city of Barcelona, meaning the drought alert protocol for the city is now in place. The protocol sets out specific steps to save safe water in services and activities such as: green spaces, ornamental fountains, urban cleaning, sports installations, swimming pools and cleaning vehicles. The goal is to achieve a 5% reduction in regular water consumption for household, commercial, industrial and recreational use, and 30% in recreational use involving watering.
Municipal services have already achieved a reduction of 11% in water consumption since the last drought episode (from May 2007 to December 2008), thanks to stronger policies to optimise water savings. This has helped replace the consumption of safe water (down by 18%) with groundwater (up by 51%). With an average water consumption of 106 litres per person per day, well below the Spanish average of 140 litres, the city has gained resilience and is prepared to cope with the drought, with no significant disruptions expected for households. However, the application of the alert stage of the drought protocol in the city does mean certain changes.
Gardens and green spaces
- Planting activity halted, except for plants in nurseries.
- Watering in private gardens restricted to two days a week: Wednesdays and Saturdays for homes with even street numbers and Thursdays and Sundays for odd numbers.
- Watering times: from 8 pm to 8 am, except for watering with groundwater.
- Maximum of 450 m3 per hectare per month.
- Ban on filling ornamental fountains and artificial ponds with safe water.
- Water jets out of use at ornamental fountains not connected to alternative water resources.
- As a unique exception, artificial ponds will be allowed to make a minimal use of safe water which is essential for maintaining aquatic life.
Cleaning of streets, sewerage, paving, façades and similar will be carried out by municipal services using minimal levels of water for essential purposes and avoiding the use of safe water. These measures are already being applied in the city, with the requisites brought forward by the Catalan Water Agency. The steps applied are:
- All vehicles with water cisterns (80%) will only carry groundwater.
- All other cleaning vehicles (20%) will be able to continue to use safe water in their tanks.
- Low-consumption diffusers will be checked on all vehicles.
- A ban applies on the use of water to eliminate dust and other materials suspended in the air.
- Individual hosepipe ban for cleaning streets, pavements, façades, terraces and similar. This ban does not include the use of mops, buckets, sponges or high-pressure water cleaners.
Sports facilities and swimming pools
- Watering of turfed playing surfaces and other types of sports surfaces is subject to the same limitations as watering gardens. Priority is also given to the consumption of alternative water resources and will be avoided when it rains.
- It is prohibited to fill swimming pools, with just a few exceptions.
Besides the restrictions, which are detailed on the website barcelona.cat/sequera, people should be aware of the need to reduce water consumption and to avoid wasting it in daily life. This page includes tips on saving water and cutting its consumption in households by up to 30%.