Spain suffering worst drought since records began

Spanish farmers are expecting water rationing and severe drought this summer as records have shown the driest winter and early spring since records began almost 60 years ago.

Figures from the National Meteorological Office show that from November last year up until March 2005, every single month has either been dry or extremely dry and, on average, rainfall has been down by 37%. This makes it the driest since 1947.

Reserves now stand at only 60% of full capacity and farmers, one of the biggest water users along with tourism and leisure, are now planting fewer crops.

Spain is not alone in suffering from this dry period, however. Portugal has imposed irrigation restrictions in the south of the country already as it tries to cope with the worst drought for 25 years.

Across Europe a similar picture is being painted. Even the UK, not a place normally associated with sun-scorched aridity, is raising fears over water shortages in the coming months. The period from November to March, when winter rains are needed to replenish reservoir and aquifer stocks, has been the driest since the same period in 1975/76.

With an average of 283mm of rain in the period, this is the fourth driest in England and Wales. The driest corresponding spell in the records was in 1933/34.

By David Hopkins

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