Church Tower Reemerges From Parched Reservoir in Drought-Hit Spain

By Reuters
March 18, 2023Europe
Church Tower Reemerges From Parched Reservoir in Drought-Hit Spain
Tourists walk while fishermen collect fish from the Sau reservoir next to a church of the village of San Roman de Sau after its re-emerging in Catalonia, near Vic, Spain, on March 15, 2023. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

MADRID/BARCELONA—Spain is in the grip of a long-term drought after 36 months of below-average rainfall, with some parts so parched that officials have asked people to cut water use and meteorologists warn of worse to come.

Some reservoirs in Catalonia, which surrounds Barcelona, are so low that old constructions like bridges and a church bell tower have resurfaced, people are flying kites on lake beds and navigation apps show someone in the middle of the water when they are standing on dry land.

The weather will be drier and hotter than usual this spring along the northeastern Mediterranean coast that includes Catalonia. The dry weather will heighten the risk of wildfires even as it brings average rainfall nationwide, Spain’s meteorological agency AEMET said.

Spain’s drought nationwide measured over 12 months is no worse than it was in 2017, 2012, and 2005. But the average water level in Catalonia’s reservoirs stands at just 27 percent, slightly above the level in parts of the southern region of Andalucia.

After 25 months without significant rain, Catalonia earlier this month asked most of its seven million residents to cut water use by 8 percent at home, 15 percent in industry, and 40 percent in agriculture.

In the Sau reservoir, 100 km (62 miles) north of Barcelona, which is only 10 percent full, boats were catching tons of fish that would struggle to survive in the low-oxygen water in order to protect drinking water.

Invasive species will be euthanized while native ones will be released in nearby waters. Access has been restricted over concerns that people will get trapped in the mud.