Spain’s Council of Ministers has approved a Royal Decree-Law on urgent measures to combat the drought in several river basins.
The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environmental Affairs, Isabel García Tejerina, explained that the accumulated rainfall since 1 October, when the hydrological year began, is 13% less than normal. Furthermore, this reduction is not distributed evenly and is more severe in the Duero river basin, at a level of 42% and in areas where rainfall is traditionally high, such as Galicia and the Cantabrian Coast. This deficit, she added, is lowering the water reserves, which stand at 57.2%, while the average for the last five years stands at 74.8% and for the last 10 years at 70.6%.
The latest assessment of the indicators shows that the Segura river basin is in an emergency situation and the Duero and Júcar river basins in a situation of alert. These three river basins are those that meet the requirements to set in motion the measures pushed through on Friday, which will be extended to any other river basin that is in the same circumstances, highlighted Isabel García Tejerina.
The Minister for Agriculture specified the initiatives adopted in recent years in the Segura and Júcar river basins, with a drought declared since 2015, in order to minimise the social, economic and environmental impact. In the case of the Segura, the government approved exceptional measures that allowed more than 250 additional cubic hectometres to be mobilised without any restrictions on irrigation. In addition, more than 13 emergency works were carried out, with an investment in excess of 35 million euros. As regards the Júcar, almost 30 cubic hectometres were mobilised and more than 20 million euros invested in more than 10 emergency works.
These actions are in addition to those contained in the Royal Decree-Law approved on Friday, 9 June. Given the situation of a lack of rainfall, pointed out Isabel García Tejerina, the necessary conditions exist to approve an exemption on the payment of fees and tariffs related to the availability of water resources. Consequently, irrigators will make a saving of 53.7 million euros.
As regards consequences relating to the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, a moratorium has been declared on National Insurance contributions. Companies and independent contractors that own agricultural holdings affected by the drought throughout the country will be able to obtain, after having substantiated the damage suffered, a one-year interest-free moratorium in the payment of their NI contributions. Isabel García Tejerina also announced that the government is working on a new form of financial aid for agriculture, designed for and adapted to those crops hardest hit by the drought.
The minister underlined that at this time “the supply for citizens is guaranteed in all the river basins”, but that “it is the responsibility of everyone to make savings in their water consumption”. Every drop always counts, but particularly now”, she declared.