Much of Western Europe has been experiencing extreme weather this year, such as heat waves, forest fires, and drought. The Spanish meteorological department says the country is facing its worst drought since 1981, as regional administrations and municipalities decided to restrict water consumption due to the fear of severe agricultural losses.
Even the verdant northern regions of Spain are experiencing scorching heat. It has reached the point that even some northern villages need tanker delivery of potable water.
This is particularly the case in the southern province of Andalusia, where most of Europe’s fruits and vegetables are produced. According to regional authorities, Andalusia’s dams and river basins are now below their capacity to maintain the region’s population in the coming months.
In the past week, the Spanish government revealed that the country’s water reserves were 40.4% of the overall capacity of its dams and reservoirs. However, in some regions, such as the Guadiana River basin, which encompasses Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura, this ratio was frighteningly 26.2%.
Nighttime water cuts, per-person consumption limitations, a ban on beach showers, car washing, watering gardens, and filling private pools are among the measures Madrid has taken to alleviate the water shortage crisis. These restrictions have been applied particularly to the regions of Galicia, and Catalonia, but there are other measures to reduce water consumption that will be implemented across the nation.
Meanwhile, the Greenpeace International estimates that 75% of Spain is susceptible to desertification.
Spanish experts are exploring how to make the most of the country’s diminishing water resources, mainly used to irrigate crops, in light of the unprecedented drought and the looming prospect of widespread desertification.
Teresa Ribera, the Spanish Minister of the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, recently said, “We must be extremely cautious and responsible instead of looking above [to the sky],” underlining the disastrous ramifications of the lack of rain and water deficit.
Olives, one of Spain’s most renowned agricultural exports, have badly suffered due to the current water shortage.
Spain produces around half of the world’s olive oil, and it is expected that olive oil prices will continue to climb due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its concomitant disruption of sunflower oil supplies.
In Andalusia, particularly in the southern region of Jaén, the price of refined olive oil rose 8.3 percent in June compared to the same month the previous year.
Spain earned $167 million from its olive oil exports in 2020, accounting for about 43% of the world’s olive oil exports. However, the current drought has already wreaked havoc in many parts of Spain: many crops have been destroyed, 240,000 hectares of woodland have burnt since January this year, and the temperature on the Balearic Islands has topped 30°C.
The combination of these conditions has resulted in a challenging summer, the effects of which will last into the upcoming autumn, such as a decline in agricultural output and a subsequent rise in prices.