Xavier Oliva is one of the farmers who are members of the irrigation community on the right of the Llobregat river.
This Thursday he was working on one of his family's artichoke farms that has been irrigated by manta – due to flooding – for decades in El Prat de Llobregat (Barcelona).
While he checks his field, half a dozen planes land at the Barcelona airport.
The aircraft pass, with the landing gear deployed, a few tens of meters from his head.
Oliva is totally immune to the noise of these devices.
What steals sleep from this farmer and the rest of his colleagues is what happens just above the planes: the absence of clouds with rain.
No one among farmers remembers a drought like the current one.
"29 months without proper rain," he denies.
The Generalitat decreed last Wednesday the exceptionality phase - the last one before the emergency phase - in the 15 regions of the Ter and Llobregat river basins and the Fluvià-Muga aquifer.
They are the most populated areas of Catalonia and in them the rainy fronts that in recent months have lightened the drought in a good part of Spain have passed by.
In these areas, the use of water for agricultural purposes has had to be reduced by 40%.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Oliva is not concerned about the lack of irrigation water in the coming weeks.
The farmer believes that the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) "learned" from the 2008 drought and in this time has created sufficient desalination and treatment plants.
Until now, the irrigation community on the right of the Llobregat irrigated with 75% of the water coming from the river and 25% of reclaimed water that was injected from the ACA infrastructures.
“Now we will not lose many irrigation hectometres, but the percentage of regenerated water will rise to 40%.
We prefer river water, but reclaimed water is subjected to many tests, so there is no risk”, he defends.
Oliva believes that it is the only alternative.
His concern is more long-term.
“If the drought continues, there will be restrictions.
At the moment, I maintain the forecast for summer crops (tomato, melon, watermelon...) I hope it rains because since we can't plant winter vegetables they will have to travel halfway around the world to bring them and a salad, in autumn, could cost us 15 euros”, he calculates.
The ACA ensures that thanks to the water treatment plants in the last section of the Llobregat, 2,200 liters of water are regenerated per second.
Until now, according to a spokeswoman for the regional entity, 1,000 of those liters were used to inject reclaimed water into wells to prevent "saline intrusion" into the aquifer and, what was left over, was poured into the lower part of the river and thus helped to preserve the so-called “environmental flow” of the area.
The remaining 1,200 liters were destined, a part to the agricultural park and another, was transferred upstream and reintroduced into the river flow to return to the normal water cycle.
"Now a smaller part will be allocated to the environmental flow and more to the agricultural park", they have settled from the ACA as a solution to the water restrictions.
Josep Cuscó is a farmer in Molins de Rei (Barcelona) and head of water for the Unió de Pagesos agrarian union.
“I cannot irrigate with the canal but with a well.
I don't have access to reclaimed water and I have to use 40% less water.
I prioritize watering the fruit trees so that they don't die and I begin to think about whether it is worth making a disbursement to plant vegetables such as peppers, aubergines or tomatoes”, Cuscó is sincere.
“If there is no water, our activity will not be profitable.
If this continues like this, it will be the ruin of the sector and we will have to rethink everything because foreign markets will not serve to supply us either, since the price of diesel is exorbitant ”, he maintains.
Germán Domínguez is a young farmer with land between Sant Boi and Santa Coloma de Cervelló.
“I have artichokes, broccoli, broad beans… and I water them by blanket.
I only ask that the technicians check the reclaimed water well because if ammonia or salt water enters it can end the harvest”, he explains with concern.
The ACA ensures that there are periodic controls and that the quality of the water is fully guaranteed.
Rosa Pruna, the president of the Agrarian Association of Young Farmers (ASAJA) in Barcelona, claims that more desalination plants and stations be built to create reclaimed water.
“Without them these months would have been traumatic for the sector.
Today we already know that the cereals planted will not be enough to feed our cattle.
In addition, in other countries there is also drought.
If it does not rain, the vegetables and the orchard will fall, but later it will be the end of many of the agricultural exploitations and also of the cattle ranchers ”, she laments.
Thousands of liters lost per day through a pipe in Badalona
The mayor of Badalona, Rubén Guijarro, called a press conference yesterday to report that 15 years ago a pipe that connects the Ter water treatment plant with the Trinitat distribution center lost two liters per second as it passed through Badalona.
The Consistory points to the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) and demands that it mobilize all possible resources to solve the bleeding that wastes water in the midst of a drought.
Guijarro's call coincided one day after it was revealed that Badalona, the third most populated city in Catalonia, had not yet presented the emergency plan for drought that the Government requires of all municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants.
The Consistory, fearful of a sanction, finally presented it yesterday.
From the ACA they defend that the repair of the leak is complex because it would be necessary to stop the service for several days, so that a part of the metropolitan area would be left without supply during that time.
They admit that the execution of the doubling to avoid losses accumulates delays, but they anticipate that it will be ready in 2025 with an investment of 36 million euros.
However, they defend that all the water that is lost is not wasted because there are two pipelines since 2008 that transport it for municipal uses and irrigation of orchards.
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