CLIMATE CHANGE, ANOTHER THREAT TO WATER

The Canary Islands are facing a new episode of drought this year and, according to the experts, it will be the fifth most severe one recorded in the last 25 years. But the forecasts are not encouraging. The State Agency of Meteorology forecasts a deficit in rainfall for the next two years.

The islands are not the only Spanish urban areas with water stress. Julio Barea, head of Greenpeace’s water campaign, recalls the crisis in Barcelona in 2008, where they reached the point of having to be supplied with tankers, an event that has been repeated, the last time, in 2018. The same thing happened in 1995 with Palma de Mallorca, which has also suffered significant restrictions on other occasions, most recently during the 2016-2017 hydrological period, which affected the entire country.

The Mediterranean, among the most vulnerable

Although it is true that the climatic characteristics of the Iberian Peninsula (and of the extra-peninsular territories) are not homogeneous – hot, cold, subtropical, Mediterranean, arid and semi-arid areas coexist – in recent years a new variable has come into play, namely climate change, which is causing anomalies and complicating the management of a resource that is as valuable as it is scarce.

“Historically, the areas most exposed to droughts have been the south and the Levant, and the cities on the Mediterranean coast have experienced the most stormy phenomena with sudden floods. However, in the new scenario, studies predict that extreme phenomena, such as droughts and floods, will be increasingly frequent and intense and that, in addition, they will be distributed throughout the country; the concepts of dry Spain and wet Spain belong to the past,” says Mariola Urrea, president of the strategy council of Fundación Aquae.

Efficient water management can reduce greenhouse gases, according to the UN

For Damià Barceló, researcher at the Institute of Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDEA) and advisor to the Gadea Science Foundation, the damaged area is the Mediterranean: “Practically the whole area is at risk”. In fact, a study by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) estimates that the population of the region – which includes all states bordering this sea, plus Portugal, Jordan and Mauritania – known as “water poor” will increase to more than 250 million people in 20 years.

This range is warming 20% faster than other areas and, if current policies continue, the temperature is expected to rise by 2.2 degrees in 2040, the report states. In addition, it points out that irrigation represents between 50% and 90% of total demand, and although consumption is forecast to increase by 18% by the end of the century, availability is expected to decrease by 15%.