Tourists Visiting This Part of Spain May Experience Water Restrictions

a bright sunrise in Catalonia, Spain
a bright sunrise in Catalonia, Spain

Spain’s authorities are in the process of deciding on water restrictions that may be applicable to visitors. Although some people may call the possible water restrictions an extreme response to the dry season, the decision is not being made lightly.

Catalonia, a northeastern region of Spain, has been experiencing a drought. In fact, it is the worst drought on record for Spain’s Mediterranean region of Catalonia. The situation has prompted some limits on water use. This has been a recent development and resulted in restriction on water consumption for the region’s nearly six million residents.

This drought has even impacted popular areas like Barcelona, which attracts around 18 million tourists a year. Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and is the regional capital of Catalonia. For the thriving expat community living in Barcelona or even travelers that are interested in visiting Spain, there may be restrictions to consider.

Will Tourists of Spain Soon Experience Water Restrictions?

Spain is considering restricting tourists’ water consumption. 
Pictured: a residential area of Catalonia
photo credit: Enric Domas

If the water level in the Catalonia region is not managed well, the restriction will likely happen soon. The domestic water use of residents is a top priority and concern right now. If municipalities do not keep domestic water use down, the restrictions may go into effect.

Residents have an established water limit during the dry season. The current limit is 200 liters of water per resident a day, which applies to water used for washing and drinking. However, if water use is not kept below the limit, there may be a change for visitors. This is because the drought emergency also means that the water use of residents can not go above limits. According to Catalonia authorities, residents need to keep domestic water use down for three consecutive months.

The water restriction on tourists is certainly possible in the near future. This change would follow water conservationists’ efforts. The water conservationist groups have advocated for a limit on tourists’ water use during the drought.

The restriction would likely limit tourists to 100 liters (or 26 gallons) of water per day at hotels. Apparently the average tourist uses around 163 liters of water per day in Barcelona. That usage increases to well over 240 liters of water for travelers in luxury hotels. According to the World Health Organization, an average 10-minute shower uses 150-200 liters or 40-53 gallons.

The Impact of Climate Change

As many scientists and the general public assume, this drought has been driven by climate change. The impacts of climate change have intensified across many areas of the world. Catalonia has been significantly impacted by the drought, which is considered a historic occurrence. After a few years without consistent rainfall and heat waves, the natural environment and citizens of Spain have suffered. On February 1st, 2024, the Catalan government also declared a drought emergency.

Exceptions to the Water Emergency

Despite the water emergency that was declared in February, the Catalan government made exceptions for swimming pools quite recently. This comes as a surprise since water use for many other things is being cut. For example, crop irrigation water usage is being reduced by 80%, water for herd animals by 50% and industry by 25%.

Some speculate that this exception to the water restrictions is an effort to keep the region’s tourism industry afloat during the upcoming summer season. However, the exceptions are in response to hotel owners who demanded the modification. The drought restrictions have been altered to allow for the private use of desalination installations.

This also means that the prior restriction on filling swimming pools with fresh water has changed. It is allowed under certain conditions, like private swimming pools that the government declare a “climate refuge.” These pools are open to residents that need to seek relief from the heat.