“In April, thousand waters”, says the popular wisdom to reflect what is traditionally a rainy month. But this is not the case, at least, neither in Catalonia nor in dry Spain. March was already one of the driest months of the century and everything suggests that we are entering the second consecutive year of drought. Until now, no great measures have been taken to alleviate what is coming our way, but fortunately it seems that people are beginning to become aware that we have a serious problem from an economic and social point of view.
In a country that is becoming more and more urban, such as Spain, drought is not part of the concerns of the citizens or the theater of politics, even less in an electoral period. A year ago (II/6/2022) I published the first alarm bell right here, “the threat of drought”.
Spain is becoming more and more urban and drought is not part of citizens’ concerns
It was already clear then that water scarcity was pushing up market basket prices and inflationary tensions were mounting before the outbreak of the blamed war in Ukraine. But no one seemed to pay much attention to the problem. The current focus was already centered then on the labor reform, the only yes is yespensions, pardons, embezzlement…
But the reality is stubborn. The swamps have continued to empty. It is true that the situation is not homogeneous throughout the territory. On the Cantabrian coast it is not alarming, although in Catalonia and dry Spain the alarms have been set off. Hydraulic reserves for consumption have fallen to 43.11%. This is 20 points below the average for the last decade.
In Catalonia the situation begins to be on the limit. Currently the reservoirs of the internal basins are at 26% of their capacity. In fact, it hasn’t rained regularly for 30 months. The level is so low that the firefighters’ planes cannot carry water from the Sau, La Baells and La Llosa reservoirs, although they guarantee that there will be water to put out the fires.
If the situation does not change, and the forecasts are not good, the problem will worsen as the summer season and the fires progress. The total hydraulic reserves of the Iberian Peninsula are already at 51.2% of their capacity, 16 points below the decade.
If this level of hydraulic reserves were to fall to 39%, as happened in August 2022, the lowest level since 1995, the impact for the national economy would be a decrease of 2.64% of GDP. This is equivalent to economic losses of 60,422 million euros, according to the study carried out by the Department of Economics of the Loyola University of Andalusia.
The big loser would be agriculture, as it is the most intensive sector in the use of water. But the production of the agri-food industry would also be affected, whose income drop would be very strong, for which reason it has already begun to mobilize asking for aid and subsidies, which in the end will translate into an additional diversion of the deficit and debt public. The decrease in the production of hydroelectric power will put pressure on the price of electricity, forcing the use of solid fuels. Without forgetting that all the industries that take place in rural areas are on alert for the fires that have already started with unusual anticipation. To which must be added the impact that water scarcity may have on tourism.
But in the end, it is the consumers who will end up paying for this increase in inflationary pressures. The shortage of grass is increasing imports from Ukraine to the point that Spain has become the main beneficiary of the Black Sea humanitarian corridor agreed with Russia. A paradoxical situation if one takes into account that this was done to avoid a famine in the third world.
The Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, has sent a reassuring message stating that imports from the United States have increased to complement those that came from Russia, of course, at a different price. The war in this is also taking its toll on us and leading us to political, ethical and moral contradictions.
This is not good news for the Government of Pedro Sánchez, who seems to have been looked at by a one-eyed man: Filomena, the pandemic, the explosion of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, the war in Ukraine and, as if that were not enough, one of the driest years of the century . Everything has been resolved in fits and starts.
For ten years we have been embroiled in reforms and identity issues without addressing the construction of infrastructures that allow us to address the consequences of climate change. It is true that in February the third cycle of the Hydrological Plan came into force until 2027 with investments of more than 22,800 million. But it requires a social and political consensus that does not exist. The reality is irrefutable: we are running out of water.