Spain’s Reign without any Rain

Spain is that black spot in the sun as it is struggling through one of its worst droughts. The country’s reservoirs are only 30% full, while the reservoirs serving Barcelona are only 20% full. Without significant rainfall, supplies of drinking water will likely run dry by October. Barcelona’s authorities have turned off civic fountains and beachside showers, banned outside garden hoses, and banned the filling of swimming pools.

Imagine Atlanta with a few more folks and you would have Barcelona. Barcelona has a population of 5.5 million. Water supply has become such an issue that the main water agency for the city has contracted 10 tankers for the next six months to ferry water from the French port of Marseilles and from the Spanish regions of Tarragona and Andalusia. The first tanker, the Sichem Defender, docked at Barcelona on May 13 carrying 5 million gallons of water. 

The tankers are expected to deliver some 92 million cubic feet of water each month, at a total cost of $68 million. This equates by my calculations to roughly 2 cents per gallon. This is still cheaper than bottled water. A total of 63 monthly deliveries of water by these are expected. 

The total amount of water is a drop in the bucket and by some estimates will only provide 6% of the monthly needs of the region’s 5.5 million people. Shipping in water is a stopgap measure until a pipeline from the Ebro river is completed in October and a desalination plant, billed as the biggest in the European Union, is completed in 2009.