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Drought, heat drain Spanish reservoirs

Published: Updated:

A flock of sheep shelter from the midday sun under the gothic arches of a medieval bridge flooded in 1956 to create the Cijara reservoir in central Spain, but now fully exposed as the reservoir is 84 percent empty after a severe drought.

In Andalusia, one of Europe's hottest and driest regions, paddle-boats and waterslides lie abandoned on the cracked bed of Vinuela reservoir, remnants of a rental business gone with the water, now at a critical level of 13 percent.

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A nearby restaurant fears a similar fate.

“The situation is quite dramatic in the sense that it's been several years without rain and we're hitting rock bottom,” said owner Francisco Bazaga, 52. “If it doesn't rain, unless they find some alternative water supply, the future is very, very dark.”

A prolonged dry spell and extreme heat made July the hottest month in Spain since at least 1961. Spanish reservoirs are at just 40 percent of capacity on average in early August, well below the 10-year average of around 60 percent, official data shows.

The remains of the church of Sant Roma de Sau emerge from the low waters of the Sau Reservoir, north of Barcelona, Spain, August 8, 2022. (Reuters)
The remains of the church of Sant Roma de Sau emerge from the low waters of the Sau Reservoir, north of Barcelona, Spain, August 8, 2022. (Reuters)


“We are in a particularly dry year, a very difficult year that confirms what climate change scenarios have been highlighting,” Energy Minister Teresa Ribera told a news conference on Monday, also highlighting that the drought was leading to devastating wildfires.

Climate change has left parts of the Iberian peninsula at their driest in 1,200 years, and winter rains are expected to diminish further, a study published last month by the Nature Geoscience journal showed.

Tourists shelter from the sun under an umbrella near the Royal Palace during a hot day with temperatures reaching 37 Celsius degrees celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit degrees) in Madrid, Spain, August 9, 2022. (Reuters)
Tourists shelter from the sun under an umbrella near the Royal Palace during a hot day with temperatures reaching 37 Celsius degrees celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit degrees) in Madrid, Spain, August 9, 2022. (Reuters)


The dry, hot weather is likely to continue into the autumn, Spain's meteorological service AEMET said in a recent report, putting further strain on Europe's largest network of dammed reservoirs with a holding capacity of 5.6 billion cubic meters.

At the Buendia reservoir east of Madrid, the ruins of a village and bathhouses have reappeared, caked in dried mud, Reuters drone footage showed, while at another dam near Barcelona a ninth-century Romanesque church has reemerged still intact, attracting visitors.

Read more:

Heatwave causes 1,700 deaths in Spain, Portugal: WHO

Wildfires burn second-biggest area on record in Europe

Spain PM says 10-day heatwave left ‘more than 500 dead’

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