What will Spain look like when it runs out of water? Barcelona is giving us a glimpse

The European Drought Observatory’s map of current droughts in Europe shows the entire Spanish Mediterranean coast in bad shape, with red areas indicating an alert similar to those in north Africa and Sicily. Catalonia may be going through the worst drought on record for the area, but the southern region of Andalucía has faced continuous drought since 2016. Last year, Spain’s droughts ranked among the 10 most costly climate disasters in the world, according to a report by Christian Aid.

Europe is warming at twice the rate of other continents. For Spain, this is not an abstract threat: climate disruption has already changed people’s lives. Soaring temperatures force people to limit time spent outdoors to avoid heatstroke, an already fatal threat for workers in city streets and farms. Hotels are filling swimming pools with seawater and wondering what the next season will bring. Farmers are throwing out entire fruit crops so they can use precious water to at least save their trees. Olive oil production is crippled by severe heatwaves. Almond growers fear early flowering caused by the warmest January on record as it could ruin production again.

It’s easy to see how these tensions could be exploited by populist parties, particularly on the far right. Mainstream politicians are accused of focusing too often on partisan politicking and power struggles related to their own survival.