Spain and Portugal: Dry winter drains, ruins crops

The sight of roofs peeking out from the water has become a regular sight at the Lindoso reservoir, northwestern Spain. Parts of Aceredo's old village, which was submerged in the valley three decades ago, can be seen in dry years.

Spain and Portugal: Dry winter drains, ruins crops

The village's skeleton has never been seen in its entirety during the wet winter season.

Aceredo has had almost no rain in two months, and there isn't much to come, so locals are feeling mixed emotions as they look at the wreckage of a car, the stone fountain still spewing water, and the old road that leads to the bar.

"The entire area used to be full of orange trees and vineyards. It was all green. It was beautiful," Jose Luis Penin (72), said of the scene. He used to go to the bar after a day of fishing with his friends.

Penin, who also lives in the same county pointed at the yellow, cracked reservoir bed. It's so sad.

Experts say that climate change has made it worse. The arid areas of the Iberian Peninsula have experienced droughts in the past. Farmers in Portugal and Spain are concerned that this year's drought will lead to record lows or even no rain. This is despite the fact that they are growing crops for Europe.

Spain has only 35% of the average rainfall that it experienced in the three months to 2021. This is compared with the 1981-2010 period. Since then, there has been virtually no rain.

According to AEMET, there has been a January without any rain in this century. This is compared to 2005, which was the only year that it happened. Authorities stated that emergency subsidies will be required for farmers if the clouds fail to fall within the next two weeks.

Ruben del Campo said that the rainfall has been below average for the past six months and will likely continue for several weeks. He hopes spring will bring some relief.

Although only 10% of Spain has been officially declared in "prolonged drought", there are many areas, especially in the south, that are experiencing extreme shortages which could affect the ability to water crops.

In November, the Guadalquivir River valley in Spain's southwest was placed under prolonged drought. The area is the center of a intense environmental dispute over water rights close to Donana National Park. This site is a World Heritage wetland. Although the Andalusia government wants to grant water rights for farmers to use land close to the park, critics claim that this will only make it more dangerous for a significant wildlife refuge already in danger.

Andres Gongora (46-year-old tomato farmer from southern Almeria) said that the past two, three year have been dry with the tendency towards less rain.

Gongora expects that the water he uses at a desalinating facility will be rationed. However, he is still more fortunate than other farmers who are specialists in wheat and grains for livestock feed.

Gongora stated that the cereal crops for this season had been lost.

Others in central and northeast Spain also feel the heat.

COAG, the Spanish leading association for farmers and livestock breeders, has warned that half of Spain’s farms could be affected by drought. According to COAG, if it doesn't rain in the next month, rain-fed crops, including cereals and olives, could see a drop of 60% to 80%.

The association is also concerned about crops that are dependent on irrigation. In most of the south, there is a shortage of water reservoirs of 40%.

Spain's left-leaning government plans to spend over 570 million euros ($647 millions) from the European Union pandemic recovery fund in order to improve its irrigation system efficiency, and incorporate renewable energy systems.

Luis Planas, the Spanish Agriculture Minister, stated this week that emergency measures will be taken by the government if it does not rain within two weeks. These would be used to provide economic benefits for farmers to reduce the impact of drought on crops and revenue.

Portugal, a neighbor, has also had little rain in the past October. According to IPMA, the country experienced 45% drought conditions by January's end.

The four-month average annual rainfall for this period was less than half of what it was in October and January. This alarms farmers who have run out of grass for their animals.

Unusually, the north of Portugal is still dry. There have been forest fires this winter. The traditional signs of summer are the appearance of mosquitoes and crickets in the south.

The IPMA does not forecast any relief prior to the end of the month.

According to Vanda Pires IPMA climatologist, Portugal has seen an increase in droughts over the last 20-30 years. There have been lower rainfalls and higher temperatures.

Pires stated to The Associated Press that "it's part the context of climate change."

The outlook is grim: Scientists predict that Portugal will experience a drop of between 20% and 40% in annual rainfall by the end of this century.


 

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