Drought Raises Alarm Across Spain but Also Shows Surprising Sides

In the Iberian area, the unrelenting drought looks like the worst in decades, thus reservoirs are drying up, crops are severely affected and villages are suffering severe shortages of drinking water.


At almost 40 percent of their capacity, reservoirs are at their lowest levels in decades according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. They are normally at around 60 percent at this time of year. Springs have even dried up in Galicia in the north east, traditionally one of Spain’s wettest regions. Water reserves are almost 26 percent below the average over the last ten years. The government has imposed emergency drought measures in some parts of the country.


2017 is the third driest year on record, behind 1981 and 2005. According to the State Agency of Meteorology (Aemet), cumulative rain so far this hydrological year is down 12 percent. Congress is now tasked with adopting a draft law on critically-needed measures to reverse the impact of the drought. Spain’s largest cereal-growing region, Castilla y Leon, has been particularly badly impacted, with crop losses estimated at between 60 and 70 percent. About 1.38 million hectares of grains, sunflowers and olive trees have been affected by drought or frost in Spain as of the end of October, according to Spanish farming insurance agency Agroseguro.


But the dry weather has had an unexpected impact in a dozen ancient villages. What was left of the abandoned northern town of Mansilla de la Sierra, in La Rioja, was engulfed with water when a reservoir was created in 1959. But this summer’s dry weather has seen the settlement re-emerge, giving people the opportunity to roam around and even giving some local residents the chance to return to their former homes.


Images from Mansilla de la Sierra. Image source: Mansilla de la Sierra city hall website

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