Drought For Members

Will drought restrictions affect summer holidays in Spain?

The Local Spain
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Will drought restrictions affect summer holidays in Spain?
A banner warning tourists about the drought alert in Catalonia. Photo: PAU BARRENA/AFP.

Whether it be limits on swimming pools, street cleaning or even daily water consumptions limits, several parts of Spain are considering their drought restrictions ahead of the summer season.


Many parts of Spain have been suffering from ongoing droughts for the better part of the last three years. The situation has been particularly bad in Catalonia and Andalusia, as well as parts of the Canary Island of Tenerife.

This past winter, reservoir levels in Barcelona fell to just 16 percent and the region declared a drought emergency in February 2024. This was the lowest level that had ever been recorded. Water restrictions were put in place, affecting Barcelona and 201 other municipalities in the region in total, over 6 million people and almost 80 percent of the Catalan population.

In Andalusia, at the start of the year, reservoir levels had plunged to an average of just 20 percent capacity and restrictions were put in place there too.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What and where are the drought water restrictions in Catalonia?

As well as agriculture and industry, water restrictions also have the potential to affect holidaymakers in Spain this summer because the rules mainly affected those with private swimming pools and gardens, although in many areas, particularly in and around Barcelona, personal usage was limited to 200 litres per day.

Typically, spring is the rainiest time in Spain and everyone was hoping for a return to normal conditions. Luckily there has been rainfall over the past few months and reservoir levels have risen slightly. 

The Ter-Llobregat Reservoir, which serves nearly six million people in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and part of Girona, is now up to 25 percent and heavy rains in Andalusia meant the levels there have risen to an average of 30 percent capacity.

Because of this, on Tuesday May 7th Catalonia announced that it would loosen restrictions and lift the state of emergency. The personal limits have risen to 230 litres per person per day and the agriculture, livestock and industry sectors will have a little more water for their needs.

Patrícia Plaja, spokesperson for the Government of Catalonia said: "The increase in reserves allows the restrictions of the last three months to be lifted and for us to exit the emergency phase,” however she also warned that “the drought is not over."


The levels are still very low and although Spain’s regions are no longer at the highest level of drought emergency, they are still experiencing drought and some restrictions are still in place and likely will in some form over the summer.

Various measures have been put in place over the last few months to try and help rectify the situation. Barcelona announced it would fight the drought with a floating desalination plant and dictated that hotel swimming pools should be open to the general public. 12 desalination plants are also slated to be installed on the Costa Brava.

Though the situation has definitely improved ahead of the long dry summer months, tourists still need to be aware of the situation.

People spend the day at the WaterWorld aquatic park, in Lloret de Mar, Catalonia. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Will drought restrictions affect summer holidays in Spain?

Though the signs are cautiously optimistic following the rainy Easter period, drought restrictions in some parts of the country could still affect summer holidays in Spain.

Public and private community pools can now be topped up once again in Catalonia, but cannot be completely refilled if they were completely empty. Single use private pools are prohibited from both being refilled completely and topped up.

This means that if you’ve rented a private villa in the region that advertises a pool, you may want to check if it will be filled or not as chances are if it has to be re-filled, it may not be possible.


Cleaning streets and watering grass in public and private gardens with drinking water remains prohibited. This may mean that parks and gardens will appear browner and dryer than usual and streets may be dirtier (and slightly smellier than usual). Cars can only be washed at specialised establishments, you cannot wash them yourself.

Local government in Tenerife recently declared a state of emergency due to the critical water situation on the island. There are restrictions in place in several areas of the island, though it seems the brunt of water restrictions are focused on irrigation systems used in the agricultural sector for now.

Water authorities in the Valencia region, however, have indicated that no urban water restrictions are expected to be necessary this summer nor at any point this year, except in small municipalities in inland Castellón.


Andalusia's Minister of Sustainability and Environment, Ramón Fernández-Pacheco, announced on Tuesday that "the filling of swimming pools will be allowed" in Málaga province this summer, something that was until recently unclear due to the ongoing restrictions.

Owing to the Easter rains and subsequent refilling of the region's reservoirs, the Junta gave the green light to the filling of pools throughout Málaga province, including the Axarquia area, one of the hardest hit by drought conditions. Until now, the filling of community pools was allowed, but has now been extended to pools in neighbouring urbanisations and private homes, something many tourists will be thankful for this summer.

However, there are still some municipalities in which water consumption per person per day is still restricted to 180, 200 or 225 litres depending on the area and the local rules.

"The amount of water is being maintained… it would be another matter if we had a May in which it rained a lot, but at the moment it doesn't look like that is going to happen," said Fernández-Pacheco.

In Cádiz and Almería, locals are still waiting to see if the restrictions will also be eased further ahead of summer. Regarding swimming pools, Fernández-Pacheco pointed out that this latest decision concerns the rules in Málaga only. "The Junta will study area by area," he said.

This means that summer rules remain up in the air until the region's drought committees meet again. The next meeting is scheduled for sometime in May.

However, if developments in Catalonia and Málaga are anything to go by, some restrictions, particularly on pools, could be lifted following the recent rains but daily per person consumption limits could remain in place.

Though it seems likely that some restrictions could be eased ahead of the busy summer season, the affected regions, which are also often popular tourist destinations, are still at risk of drought regardless of short-term rainfall.


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