Amid drought, water curbs in Portugal's Algarve, Spain's Catalonia

By Sergio Goncalves and Joan Faus

January 19, 2024 at 1:00 PM

By Sergio Goncalves and Joan Faus

LISBON/BARCELONA (Reuters) - Portugal's caretaker government has ordered cuts to the amount of water used in farmland irrigation and in urban environments including hotels in the tourism-dependent southern region of Algarve, where a severe drought has nearly emptied reservoirs.

Across the Iberian peninsula, Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia is suffering its worst drought on record and authorities in the greater Barcelona area said on Thursday they would reduce water pressure in some towns' supply systems.

Portugal's Environment Minister Duarte Cordeiro said late on Wednesday agricultural irrigation in the region will have to drop by an average of 25% from last year's levels, but the cuts could reach as much as 50% around certain dam reservoirs with less water.

Urban consumers, including golf courses and hotels, will face cuts of 15%.

"Algarve reservoirs are at their lowest levels ever. If nothing was done in relation to moderation on the consumption side, we would reach the end of 2024 without water for public supply," he said.

Water reservoirs in mainland Portugal are 73% full on average, with some in the north at capacity as a result of heavy rains, while in the Algarve they are on average only 25% full, with some as low as 8%-15%, compared to 45% a year ago, he said.

A 2022 study showed that climate change had already left the Iberian peninsula at its driest in 1,200 years.

Meanwhile, Catalan authorities this week warned that new emergency restrictions, of up to 80% for agricultural water usage, would be imposed once the region's overall reservoirs level reaches 16%. Reservoirs are now just 16.2% full.

Filling empty swimming pools will be banned, including for tourism facilities. For outdoor pools, clubs will be obliged to shut all their showers. Beach showers will also be shut.

Those breaching the restrictions will be fined up to 3,000 euros in the Barcelona area.

In the southern region of Andalusia, officials on Thursday said there would be water restrictions in big cities such as Seville, Cordoba or Malaga by the summer in the absence of substantial rain before then. Water pressure has already been reduced at night in some towns.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; additional reporting by Joan Faus in Barcelona and Emma Pinedo in Madrid; editing by Andrei Khalip and Bernadette Baum)


Reuters is a news agency owned by Thomson Reuters Corporation. It employs around 2,500 journalists and 600 photojournalists in about 200 locations worldwide. Reuters is one of the largest news agencies in the world.

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