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Barcelona, Spain
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droughts
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in Chapter 3
3 Trials and Tribulations Within the Hydrosocial Cycle

On a placid spring afternoon in 2008, Jose Montilla, then president of the Government of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Spain, sat pensively at his desk deliberating with his cabinet and a retinue of policy advisors and scientists. The proud Catalan, the inhabitants of this arid Northeastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula for over 1100 years, had entered a period of extremely dire straits.

Spain was in the midst of its worst drought in 60 years, and Barcelona, the bustling Mediterranean metropolis and capital of Catalonia, was ground zero(March, Domènech, & Saurí, 2013). After paltry winter rains for two years in a row, local officials implemented a series of emergency water saving measures in hopes of having enough for the sweltering summer months that are also critical to the local economy: shutting off of municipal fountains and beachside showers; banning the filling of swimming pools; water conservation lessons to school children; cutting a deal with the neighbouring province of Aragon to divert even more water from the mighty Ebro River; the construction of desalination plants—all for nought.

After 18 months of little to no rainfall and the desalination plants still a whole year away from completion, local water supplies became so depleted that the church of Sant Roma, once condemned along with medieval village it was named after into the murky depths of a reservoir, was completely visible for the first time in over half a century(Roberts, 2008). All of the Generalitat bureaucrats were foaming at the mouth and howling at each other from across the table over then Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero’s recent decision to refuse their proposal for water transfers from the Serge, another Aragonese river, because it would further agitate the already indignant governments of Murcia and Valencia who were dealing with their own crushing droughts(Nash, 2008).

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